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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 its inter-state striped bass fishery management plan in response to the overfished condition of the coastal striped bass population or “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. Per federal law, Connecticut must abide by the provisions of the ASMFC striped bass fishery management plan (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 coast-wide 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. The new coast-wide circle hook rule will reduce the number of striped bass that die annually after being released by recreational anglers.
  • In March 2021, ASMFC clarified that the circle hook mandate “shall not apply to any artificial lure with bait attached”, and also clarified that the intent of 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 using bait on a hook other than an inline circle hook (exempting artificial lures) must immediately release the fish, regardless of whether the striped bass is of legal size for harvest, or whether the angler was intending to catch striped bass.

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 now 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 released 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. Per federal law, Atlantic coastal states including Connecticut are required to implement the rules mandated by ASMFC.

Q: Why the requirement 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 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 an inline 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 an inline 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”.

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

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.

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 eel 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.

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 issuance of an infraction (ticket) for $75 per violation and/or per illegally-taken fish.

 

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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 July 2021