For many anglers, finding consistent success when trout fishing can prove difficult. Trout tend to be reluctant biters, and are known to turn up their noses at any offer that appears suspect. However, for many anglers who are new to the sport of trout fishing, matters of this nature are further complicated, by the selection of gear that is inadequate for the application at hand.
Perhaps the greatest example of such difficulties centers around the use of improperly sized hooks. As most are well aware, fishing hooks come in a wide variety of sizes and configurations, not all of which are well suited for use when trout fishing. Additionally, one’s choice in the hook is typically dependent upon the exact species of trout that is being pursued.
The following guide will assist you in selecting the proper hook for every individual trout fishing application, thereby allowing you to avoid unnecessary hassle.
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The Importance Of Proper Hook Selection
When trout fishing, proper hook selection is of the utmost importance. The reasoning behind this is actually multifaceted and is rooted in one’s ability to not only draw a strike but to capitalize on each strike as it occurs.
Trout are easily dissuaded from taking any bait that is suspect in nature. Using large, oversized hooks tends to do more harm than good, as lures and baits featuring such hooks go largely ignored. This is a pitfall that many inexperienced trout anglers are forced to overcome, especially those who have previous experience fishing for other freshwater game fish species such as crappie, walleye, bass, and catfish, which are often caught on larger hooks.
By using the wrong hook, an angler also lessens their chance at landing any trout that decides to strike their lure or bait. Bigger hooks often cause wary fish, such as trout, to spit an angler’s bait even before the hook can be set. On the other hand, small hooks often go overlooked, presenting anglers with a greater period of time during which they can react to a strike.
Trout hooks also come in more than one form. If adequately prepared, an angler can employ the use of the right hook for the application at hand. While certain hooks are best suited for use with artificial bait, or lures, others are of greater value when fishing with live bait. Knowing the difference between the various types of hooks currently available can often serve as the difference between success, or lack thereof.
Types Of Trout Fishing Hooks
The following are several of the most popular types of fishing hooks commonly used when trout fishing.
Straight Shank Hooks
Perhaps the most common of all trout fishing hooks, are those of a straight shank design. Straight shank hooks are of a standard “J-style” design and feature a barbed tip. These hooks are relatively versatile, making them excellent for use with live bait such as minnows and nightcrawlers, as well as with Powerbait.
Circle hooks are a variant of the traditional straight shank hook, yet are of a sweeping design that is of a circular nature. Hooks of this style also feature a barbed tip, which is excellent for keeping the bait on the hook, and fish on the line. Due to their rounded shape, circular hooks are self-setting in nature, meaning that hook-up occurs without any additional input of force, on an angler’s behalf.
Kahle hooks are yet another type of single hook available to today’s anglers. Hooks of this nature are somewhat rounded in design, much like a circular hook. However, Kahle hooks feature a tip that faces inward, at a 45-degree angle. This general configuration allows for effortless hook sets, which can actually increase an angler’s catch ratio.
Salmon Egg Hooks
Salmon eggs are a longtime favorite of trout anglers, due to their high rate of effectiveness when attempting to coax a strike. However, small bait of this type can be relatively difficult to retain on a standard hook. In order to overcome this issue certain manufacturers, such as Eagle Claw, Gamakatsu, and Mustad, offer their own lines of salmon egg hooks. These smaller hooks consist of a sweeping shank, barbed tip, and outward canted eyelet for offset to an angler’s fishing line.
As their names would suggest, barbless fishing hooks are hooks that are void of any barb at their tip. While this design might seem somewhat counterproductive when attempting to retain fish on the hook, the use of a barbless hook is ideal in a catch-and-release scenario. These hooks minimize the amount of damage done to a trout’s mouth and can be removed with minimal effort, sometimes even without the use of pliers.
Treble hooks consist of three hook points, or tips, bound together at their shanks. Though a treble hook features a single eyelet, each of its three tips separate, and point outward at opposing angles. Hooks of this design are commonly employed on trolling, spinner, and jig style lures, as well as with the use of Powerbait-type products.
Understanding Hook Sizing
Even after selecting a certain style of hook for use, many anglers are faced with a certain level of confusion regarding hook sizing. Luckily, today’s fishing hooks are measured within the criteria of a set hook sizing system, which makes it quite simple for an angler to determine the size of the hook contained within a particular package.
This system uses two individual metrics, by which hook size is judged, including numerical sizing and aught sizing.
Many standard hooks are measured by a particular numerical value. These values begin at the number one, counting upward as hook size decreases. In essence, the larger the number, the smaller a numerically sized hook is. For example, a #1 hook would be much larger in size than that which carried a #8 rating.
The aught system of measurement typically corresponds to larger hooks, most of which are larger in size than the #1 hook specified within the numerical system. In a simplified sense, a 1/0 hook is generally similar in size to a #1 hook. However, as a hook’s aught size increases (2/0, 3/0, 4/0), so does its size.
Proper Hook Sizes For Trout Fishing Applications
As a general rule, most trout anglers use size #8-#14 hooks. In many cases, these hooks are small enough to avoid detection by trout, yet large enough to allow proper hook-up.
The use of any hook smaller than #14 can lead to significant difficulty when attempting to set the hook, as well as issues relating to swallowed or deeply lodged hooks. On the other hand, hooks of a larger size than #8 are easily spotted by trout and can lead to a dramatic drop in strikes when used during any given outing.
Hooks at the upper end of this size range (#8-#12) are likely better suited when attempting to catch larger species of trout, such as rainbow trout, brown trout, and steelheads. Likewise, hooks at the lower end of this spectrum (#12-#14) are considered standard fare when fishing for smaller species, such as brook trout.
It is also important to remember that an angler’s ultimate decision in which size hook to use when bait fishing, will generally hinge upon the type of bait that is to be used. Some popular trout baits, such as salmon eggs, do not require the use of as large of a hook as other forms of bait like nightcrawlers.
Selecting the perfect hook for use is often a game of give and take. However, the highest level of success will often come when using the smallest possible hook for the bait that you intend to fish with. This keeps your hook out of eyesight, thereby minimizing the risk of spooking fish.
It is also important to note that smaller-sized panfish hooks can be used as a substitute for actual trout fishing hooks, in many cases. While it might be somewhat difficult to locate dedicated trout fishing hooks at many storefront retail locations, panfish hooks of the same nature are almost always readily available. As long as these hooks fall within the above-mentioned size range, they can be used interchangeably.
Final Thoughts On Hook Size For Trout Fishing
Many trout anglers place ample thought into the selection of their spinning reels or fishing rods. However, far fewer give their selection of hooks the same level of consideration. In many cases, this can be a rather significant mistake, that can actually rob an angler of their chances at success.
By taking the time to carefully select which size of fishing hook to use, you can dramatically increase your effectiveness while on the water. This, in turn, will allow you to put more fish in the boat, and make numerous memories that you will not soon forget.