Catch and Release in Marine Recreational Fisheries

A Comparison of Circle Hook and “J” Hook Performance in Recreational Catch-and-Release Fisheries for Billfish

E. D. Prince, M. Ortiz, and A. Venizelos


Abstract.—This study evaluates the performance of circle and comparable-size “J” hooks on Atlantic and Pacific sailfish Istiophorus platypterus and, to a lesser extent, on Pacific blue marlin Makaira nigricans. Terminal gear performances were assessed in terms of fishing success, hook location, and bleeding associated with physical hook damage and trauma. Evaluations of trolling with dead bait took place off Iztapa, Guatemala, during the spring and summer of 1999, and assessment of drifting/kite fishing with live bait took place off South Florida during the summer of 1999.

Three hundred and sixty Pacific sailfish were caught in Iztapa, Guatemala, to assess terminal gear performance; 235 sailfish were on circle hooks, and 125 were on “J” hooks. Circle hooks used on sailfish had hooking percentages (i.e., fish hooked/fish bite) that were 1.83 times higher compared with “J” hooks. Once the fish were hooked, no difference in catch percentage (i.e., fish caught/fish hooked) between hook types was detected. Significantly more sailfish were hooked in the corner of the mouth using circle hooks (85%), as compared with “J” hooks (27%). In contrast, significantly more sailfish were deep hooked in the throat and stomach with “J” hooks (46%), as compared with circle hooks (2%). Only one sailfish (1%) was foul hooked using circle hooks, while 11 (9%) sailfish caught on “J” hooks were foul hooked. Sailfish caught on “J” hooks are 21 times more likely to suffer hook-related bleeding than those caught on circle hooks.