By Kelly Odom
Fish Eye News
Red drum fishermen, who do not already use circle hooks, will need to switch from the old j-hooks when they target puppy drum in Pamlico Sound in the warmer months.
The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission has adopted a new rule to require the use of circle hooks when fishing at night in Pamlico Sound and its tributaries during the summer.
The rule prohibits fishing with any hook larger than 4/0 between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. from July 1 through September 30, unless the tackle consists of:
- A circle hook (a hook with the point of the hook directed perpendicularly back toward the shank) with the barb either compressed or removed;
- A fixed sinker, weighing not less than two ounces, secured no farther than six inches from the circle hook.
According to Lee Paramore, biologist with the N. C. Division of Marine Fisheries and lead staff member on the Red Drum Fishery Management Plan, fish are less likely to swallow a circle hook than a traditional J-hook. This is particularly true in the adult red drum fishery in Pamlico Sound where as much as 40 to 50 percent of all fish taken on a typical J-hook rig are deep (gut) hooked.
Deep hooked fish are far more likely to die when released than lip hooked fish.
In one study of 104 fish caught in North Carolina waters, mortality rates of lip hooked fish were zero percent, compared to 16 percent for deep-hooked fish, Paramore said. All the deep-hooked mortalities occurred with j-hooks.
“Circle hooks seldom gut hook a fish and usually hook fish in the jaw, making it easier to release a healthy fish,” Paramore said.
In the study, 96 percent of all red drum captured using a circle hook in conjunction with a short leader and a fixed weight were lip hooked, Paramore said.
Removing or flattening the barb reduces stress and further damage to fish, he said.
The division has for some time promoted the use of circle hooks in catch-and-release fisheries in an effort to lower post-release mortality, said Carole Willis, a sportfishing specialist with the agency.
The National Marine Fisheries Service also requires the use of circle hooks in all registered Highly Migratory Species Tournaments, including the N.C. Governor’s Cup series.