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Barbed hooks could soon become a thing of the past

August 9, 2019
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

There's no question that using circle hooks saved the lives of countless recreational fish that got CPR (caught, photoed and released) treatment. They are perfect for the beginner not accustomed to setting hooks as well as the expert angler and, in many cases, required by law.

There's a day coming where barbless hooks will become the law of the land as well, which will save countless more fish from injury and delayed mortality.

Treble hooks may also be banned in the near future and now some manufactures like Rapala are going to single hook designs like its Coastal Series lures.

Aboard my boat, circle hooks are used most of the time with a few exceptions where they would be the wrong choice for the task at hand.

A good example would be fishing large baits such as a 12-inch live mullet or ladyfish around docks with big current and big rods searching for a trophy snook bite.

A typical scenario would find the angler anchored up current of the target dock. A handful of live baitfish is tossed towards the dock to get things moving. A large baitfish is then floated back to the pilings, and suddenly your line snaps tight as a guitar string as a 30-pound fish completely inhales it, then starts to turn back towards the safety of the pilings. Of course, if she gets back to her safe spot behind the pilings, she's probably not coming out.

With the circle hook we depend on the fish to turn and with the angler reeling, the line tightens causing the hook to slide up and turn into the corners of the fish's mouth.

In our scenario, if using a circle hook, we've probably lost the fish in the dock structure as we gave it time to turn and regain cover and advantage.

Instead, I'm going to a 5/0 to 7/0 sized J hook and instantly power setting the hook upon a strike then using my large rod and 80-pound braid (80-pound leader) try and power the fish away from cover. Just like grouper fishing, often the battle is won or lost in the first seconds of the battle. Don't use light wire hooks with big tackle for obvious reasons, choose a hook with a substantial shank.

This may sound like overkill to some that have never experienced trying to stop a raging 30-pound plus snook in heavy current from getting back to her dock. Once they turn that head and power swim back with heavy current, they are very hard to stop.

There's lots of buddy or family fun available with large schools of Spanish macs terrorizing anything big enough to eat. Look for birds diving and obvious surface disturbances, then decide if you're going to chase feeding schools as they drive bait to the surface or get ahead and try to intercept the school. If all this running around sounds like too much work and gas, then get in the vicinity of feeding fish, anchor up and hang a chum block off the transom to draw them close.

Nearly anything flashy cast near them will result in a strike. A chrome Rapala Skitter Walk fished on top (equipped with single hooks -- makes release easier) draws some awesome strikes.

Baitfish and live shrimp, even GULP or plastic shrimp, fished under a popping cork can bring success.

Spoons are popular and redfish anglers know to use a small swivel to minimize line twist. Take them off as the macs will try to eat them resulting in lost baits.

To prevent bite-offs, a short 40-pound test hard fluorocarbon leader is used or the old standby, lite single strand wire. Knot the wire to your mono with an Albright Knot. Tie your lure to your wire with a Haywire Twist.

Tarpon and sharks in the Harbor, along the beaches, and some pass action are still in play.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or



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