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Use of Circle Hooks for Striped Bass (Freshwater and Saltwater)

Downloadable Resources | Background | Frequently Asked Questions

"We're trying to help conserve a stock of fish that is in an overfished condition and needs help. By using inline circle hooks, people are pitching in to that effort."- Justin Davis, Assistant Director, Marine Fisheries Program

Questions may be directed to Justin Davis, Assistant Director, Fisheries Division via email

NOTE:  This regulation was mandated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and is being adopted by all Atlantic coast states.

Effective December 1, 2020anyone using any kind of natural bait (whether it be live, dead, or cut) on a hook with the intent to catch striped bass in Connecticut Waters MUST be using an inline circle hook. This applies in freshwater and saltwater.

A partir del 1 de diciembre de 2020, personas que usen cualquier tipo de cebo natural (ya sea vivo, muerto o cortado) en un anzuelo con la intención de atrapar robalo rayado en aguas de Connecticut DEBEN usar un anzuelo circular. Esto es aplicable en aguas dulces y saladas.

Downloadable resources

Circle hook fact sheet and Video

Best practices fact sheet for reducing catch and release mortality for striped bass and Video

 

Background and Additional Information

  • In October 2019, ASMFC changed the inter-state striped bass fishery management plan in response to the overfished condition of the striped bass stock. Changes included a mandate that states must adopt rules by January 1, 2021, requiring use of inline circle hooks when bait fishing for striped bass. Connecticut must abide by the provisions in the ASMFC mandate (i.e. the State has to adopt the inline circle hook rule).
  • The number of striped bass that die annually from stress/injury after being caught and released by recreational anglers is a major component of overall coastwide striped bass fishing mortality (roughly equivalent to the number of fish that are harvested annually by recreational anglers). Circle hooks are a scientifically proven way to reduce hooking injury in recreational fisheries. The new coastwide circle hook rule will reduce the number of striped bass that die annually after being released by recreational anglers.
  • Initial guidance provided by ASMFC in 2020 stated that there can be no exemptions to the circle hook rule for striped bass fishing (for example, no exemptions allowing use of non-circle hooks on artificial lures tipped with bait, such as tube & worm rigs). DEEP therefore adopted a regulation in December 2020 that reflected the “no exemptions” guidance.
  • ASMFC subsequently re-visited the circle hook mandate in March 2021, and issued revised guidance exempting artificial lures tipped with bait from the circle hook mandate. ASMFC also provided additional guidance on the definition of “bait” that requires the use of circle hooks. DEEP is currently working to revise the prevailing regulation to reflect this updated guidance.
  • In March 2021, ASMFC also clarified that the intent of the striped bass circle hook mandate was that no striped bass may be harvested using bait with a non-circle hook, regardless of the species that an angler is targeting. This means that any angler who catches a striped bass on a non-circle hook using bait must immediately release the fish, regardless of whether the striped bass is of legal size for harvest, or whether the angler was targeting striped bass. DEEP is also currently working to revise the prevailing regulation to reflect this updated guidance.
  • DEEP Marine Fisheries and Environmental Conservation Police will focus on education and outreach about this new circle hook requirement for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When will the new requirement for use of inline circle hooks when bait fishing for striped bass in Connecticut take effect?

A: The new striped bass circle hook rule became effective in Connecticut in December 2020. Anglers must use inline circle hooks when bait fishing for striped bass in Connecticut.

Q: Why did Connecticut implement this new rule requiring use of inline circle hooks when bait fishing for striped bass?

A: A substantial number of striped bass die every year after being release by anglers, due to stress and injury sustained during the catch, handling, and release process. The number of striped bass that die from post-release mortality annually is about equivalent to the number of striped bass harvested. The coastal striped bass population or “stock” is overfished and fishing mortality must be reduced to allow the stock to rebuild to target levels. Circle hooks are a scientifically-proven method of reducing hooking injury and improving post-release survival, particularly when used in conjunction with common bait-fishing methods. For this reason, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) chose to mandate the use of inline circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with bait starting in 2021, as part of a striped bass stock re-building strategy. By Federal law, Atlantic coastal states including Connecticut are required to implement the fishing rules mandated by ASMFC.

Q: Why the mandate for use of inline circle hooks, as opposed to offset circle hooks?

A: Scientific studies have shown that inline circle hooks significantly reduce rates of deep hooking relative to offset circle hooks, and therefore provide the greatest benefit in terms of reducing hooking injury and improving post-release survival.

Q: What meets the definition of “bait” that requires the use of an inline circle hook?

A: In March 2021, ASMFC clarified that the definition of “bait” requiring the use of circle hooks is “any marine or aquatic organism live or dead, whole or parts thereof”. DEEP is currently working to revise the prevailing Connecticut regulation to reflect this updated guidance, and is also planning on extending the definition of bait to include terrestrial organisms (for example, earthworms). In plain speak: the use of any type of fish or animal, whether live or dead, whole or in parts, as bait on a hook when fishing for striped bass requires that the hook be a circle hook – with the exception of bait added to artificial lures (see below). The definition of bait requiring circle hooks does not extend to manufactured or synthetic baits.

Q: If I put a piece of bait on an artificial lure (for example: tube & worm rig, eelskin plug, strip of squid on a bucktail jig, live eel on a jig head), is it required that the hook on the artificial lure be a circle hook?

A: No. In March 2021, ASMFC provided updated guidance that the circle hook mandate “shall not apply to any artificial lure with bait attached”. DEEP is currently working to revise the prevailing Connecticut regulation to reflect this updated guidance.

Q: What about things like bucktail, or pork rind trailers, which are parts of an organism. Do they qualify as “bait” that requires use of inline circle hooks when fishing for striped bass?

A: In practice, no. Technically, these items meet the definition of bait that requires the use of inline circle hooks; however, they are almost always used as part of an artificial lure presentation. When used as part of an artificial lure presentation, they are exempt from the circle hook requirement, per the updated guidance from ASMFC.

Q: What about rigged eels? Do they require the use of inline circle hooks when fishing for striped bass?

A: Yes. “Rigged eels” are a bait presentation that involves attaching hooks to a dead eel. Eels meet the definition of “bait” that requires the use of inline circle hooks when fishing for striped bass, and a rigged eels is not an artificial lure. Therefore, anglers fishing rigged eels for striped bass must use inline circle hooks to rig their eels.

Q: What if I’m fishing with bait on a non-circle hook, intending to catch something other than striped bass, and I incidentally catch a striped bass? Have I violated the circle hook regulation?

A: No. The regulation states that you must use inline circle hooks when fishing with bait and intending to catch striped bass. If you are fishing with bait on a non-circle hook intending to catch something other than striped bass, and you happen to catch a striped bass, you have not committed a violation – provided that you immediately return the striped bass to the water without unnecessary injury (see below).

Q: If I’m fishing with bait on a non-circle hook, intending to catch something other than striped bass, and I incidentally catch a legal-sized striped bass, can I keep it?

A: No. Per the updated guidance provided by ASMFC in March 2021, any striped bass caught with bait on a non-circle hook (with the exemption of bait on artificial lures) must be immediately returned to the water without unnecessary injury, regardless of whether the angler was intentionally targeting striped bass or not. DEEP is currently working to revise the prevailing Connecticut regulation to reflect this updated guidance.

Q: When does DEEP anticipate that the prevailing regulation will be revised to incorporate the new ASMFC guidance concerning exemption for bait on artificial lures, bait definition, and incidental catch of striped bass with bait on non-circle hooks?

A: DEEP is currently undertaking an emergency regulation process to update the prevailing regulation. DEEP anticipates that the regulation will be updated in spring 2021. In the meantime, DEEP Marine Fisheries and Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police will focus on education and outreach about the new circle hook requirement that reflects the updated ASMFC guidance.

Q: What is the penalty for violating the striped bass circle hook regulation?

A: Striped bass sportfishing violations, including violations of the new circle hook rule, are a violation of Connecticut General Statute Section 26-159a, and will result in a misdemeanor summons to appear in court and face fines ranging from $100 to $500, depending on whether is a first, second, or subsequent offense.

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Please contact the Fisheries Division with any questions. 

Phone: 860-434-6043)
E-mail: deep.marine.fisheries@ct.gov

Content updated April 2021