Monday, May 25, 2009

The Circle Hook Experiment

The last two outings that we've taken the kids on (more on the second in a later post), I've experimented with circle hooks. I've had two issues with kid fishing (and with my own, for that matter) that I thought circle hooks might resolve:

1) Ava, at less than 4, isn't really able to set the hook. Not only is her age a factor, but using a 2-foot rod with curly, cheap line isn't ideal.

2) Setting the hook when using a bobber is hard. This sounds stupid, but for those of us who have spent years learning to feel the line with a sinker or with a lure, it's hard to tell when to set the hook when the bobber's dipping, and how to keep the slack out of it.

The circle hook, I reasoned, would resolve this issues by eliminating the need to set the hook. I used the slightly different Gamakatsu octupus circle hooks, in either size 4 or 6. So here are the results of my experiments:

On my own rod, I had a total of 7 bites over about 90 minutes (all but one while not using a bobber). Without ever setting the hook myself, I hooked and landed 4 fish (I think 1 bass and 4 bluegill). I missed two (which I chalk up to little 'gills nibbling at the tips of worms), and it one instance I lost the whole hook. I'd blame it on a bad knot, except I'd already landed 3 fish on it. I'm not sure what happened. All four of my fish were hooked perfectly in the corner of the jaw.

Ava, with the assistance of first my stepdad and then her dad, caught 5 fish. There were a few bites that resulted in hook-set attempts, all of which failed. I'll save some of the details on the fish for my next post, but you've already seen the trout Ava caught. Unfortunately, this one was hooked in the bottom of the mouth. After the bobber started running, my stepdad gave a little hookset here, so I don't know if that's too blame. The fish bled a little, and its revival was questionable.

Of the other 4 fish, 3 were hooked in the corner of the jaw, but one little gill was hooked through the top of the mouth, coming out between its eyes. The good news is that nearly all the hooks were exactly where they should be. The bad news is that the hooks are very thick, which led to a couple bleeding fish, and noticeable wounds. The other bad news is that with the thick wire and big barbs, hook removal was a little difficult, esp. on one fish where the hook had gone through the lip and re-entered the lip from the outside. Fortunately, all the fish except the trout were released with no noticeable trauma and swam off quickly.

One other note: I had a terrible time keeping vienna sausages on the hook, largely, I think, because the hook was too thick (even trying to use enough weight to cast with just a gentle lob).

My conclusions (obv. drawn after not a whole lot of research):

1) This is definitely an aid for helping kids catch fish. Ava landed all her fish without once needing a hookset (the trout being a strange case).

2) This is an aid for catching fish on a bobber. There's no question when the fish is on. When the bobber seems to be moving on its own, gently reel tight and the fish, if it's mouthed the hook, will be there.

3) The hooks are too thick for small freshwater purposes. I'd like a lighter wire hook for our target species, although that might change the effectiveness. I won't be using these hooks for my general fishing for that reason, although I might use them for catfish.

4) I'm not sure how to get around the thick-hook-fragile-bait issue, and am not sure how something like chicken livers would hold up. It may be that there are lighter wire circle hooks available.

As always, I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts.

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