Are circle hooks an effective tool for conserving marine and freshwater recreational catch-and-release fisheries?

S. J. Cooke, C. D. Suski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


1. Circle hooks have rapidly become popular among recreational anglers, based largely on the assumption that their use aids in the conservation of fisheries resources by reducing gut hooking, and hence mortality. In addition, circle hooks are intended to facilitate jaw hooking. Unfortunately, these assumptions have been perpetuated by anecdotal reports with very little rigorous scientific information to support these assertions. 2. A number of recently published, forthcoming, and grey literature reports provide an opportunity to review briefly and synthesize research conducted on circle hooks. We surveyed literature databases and also used questionnaires to solicit information from unpublished or in-progress circle hook research. 3. Although among studies the results have been quite disparate, overall the mortality rates were consistently lower for circle hooks than J-style hooks. In addition, circle hooks were more frequently hooked in the jaw, and less frequently hooked in the gut than conventional hook types. There is no doubt that in some marine fisheries, such as tuna, billfish, and striped bass, capture efficiency remains high and injury and mortality rates are drastically reduced. However, in other species (e.g. bluegill), injury can actually be more severe from circle hooks relative to some other hook types. In other species, such as largemouth bass, circle hooks have minimal conservation benefit, but have reduced capture efficiency relative to conventional hook designs. 4. Factors such as hook size, fishing style, fish feeding mode, and mouth morphology all appear to affect the effectiveness of circle hooks. For these reasons, it is difficult to promote the adoption of the use of circle hooks as a panacea for all fish and fisheries. Instead, we recommend that management agencies focus on recommending circle hooks only for instances for which appropriate scientific data exist. 5. The recent interest in circle hooks has been beneficial for stimulating interest and research on the role of hook designs in reducing hooking-related injury and mortality. We encourage tackle manufacturers to continue to develop new hook designs that have the potential to provide conservation benefit to caught and released fish. This paper provides direction to management agencies and outdoor media for disseminating responsible information to anglers regarding the application of circle hooks for conserving fisheries resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-326
Number of pages28
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Catch and release
  • Circle hooks
  • Conservation
  • Gear efficiency
  • Gear type
  • Hooking mortality
  • Recreational fisheries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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