Barbless Circle Hook Frequently Asked Questions and How-tos

How to List Your Barbless Circle Hook Catches

If you would like to have your barbless catches listed, please call, e-mail, or write us and we'll be glad to add it to the growing list of anglers and catches. Click here to contact us.

How to Make a Barbless Circle Hook

Use a small hand crimper (for Mustad 16/0 and smaller hooks) or large bench crimper (for Mustad 18/0 and larger hooks) to flatten a circle hook's barb. A pair of parallel-jawed pliers can also be used in place of a hand crimper to flatten down the barb on smaller hooks.

Use a hand crimper for small hooks.
Use a hand crimper for small hooks.
Use a bench crimper for large hooks.
Use a bench crimper for large hooks.
A barbed circle hook converted to a barbless circle hook using a crimping tool to flatten the hook's barb.
A barbed circle hook converted to a barbless circle hook using a crimping tool to flatten the hook's barb.

How to Send Us Your Barbless Circle Hook Catch Photos

Send us photos of your barbless circle hook catches so we can add them to our growing photo gallery. Please note that sending in your photos will give us implicit permission to use them in publicizing the NOAA Barbless Circle Hook Project. Click here to contact us.

The Truth Behind Offset Circle Hooks

By BCH News guest contributor Bryan Kimata

Some people bend them themselves. Some people buy them that way. At some time, you probably have used them yourselves. What are they? I'm referring to offset circle hooks and why you shouldn't be using them. But first of all, what is an offset circle hook? Well let's start with what's a non-offset circle hook. Non-offset circle hooks are circle hooks that have a tip that is bent back in a plane parallel, or nearly parallel to the shank. They're the most common form of circle hooks and the ones you are most likely to see. By contrast, the Atlantic States Fisheries Commission defines a non-offset hook as one with the point turned back perpendicular to the shank. The point is bent back with a major deviation from the plane parallel to the shank. As a Honolulu tackle store owner, I try to help my customers hook and land more fish. Offset circle hooks have been proven to be less effective with less strike and penetration force. To visualize this inefficiency, imagine attempting to drive a nail when it's placed at an angle to the board. Its energy is not directed to the point squarely making it much more difficult. They also tend to hang up on the ocean floor easier, so you can see why I try not to recommend them.

Offset circle hooks also harbor a much darker side. Studies from the Marine Resource Research Institute (MRRI) have shown that offset circle hooks have deep hooking rates (gut and throat hooking), of 23%, and mortalities of 10% (South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources data). By contrast, sailfish catch and release data show deep hooking catches of just 2% with standard circle hooks. (Prince et al. 2002). This should not be surprising as non-offset hooks were designed to lip or jaw hook fish. Non-offset hooks have even been pulled from fish stomachs as the rolled parallel tip avoids the throat and gut cavity. This does not happen with offset hooks, and larger offset angles increase the likelihood of a deep hooking.

This reduction in deep hooking is so dramatic that as of June 1, 2008, Florida requires non-offset circle hooks while bait fishing in the Gulf Coast. The federal government still allows the use of offsets there but discourages their use.

While I could not find any deep hooking data on non-fish species it would seem logical that increases would occur here as well. Incidental hooking of turtles and seals occur and the use of non-offset circle hooks can help protect these populations too. A 2007 NOAA-documented incident indicates that seals are capable of removing a barbless circle hook themselves. So, the next time you think of bending your circle hook, bend the barb down and leave the tip alone. You'll help the environment and put more fish in your cooler too!


Prince E, Ortiz M, Venizelos A
2002. A comparison of circle hook and "J" hook performance in recreational catch-and-release fisheries for billfish. American Fisheries Society Symposium 30:66-79

Why Should I Use Barbless Circle Hooks?

  • It's the hook's basic design that makes it effective – not the barb
    Preliminary studies on barbless circle hook effectiveness show that it is just as effective at catching fish in almost all situations. Similarly, the hook is just as effective at holding bait without the barb. Ulua fishermen have been using time-tested methods, such as tying or bridling, for retaining large or live bait on barbless hooks.
  • Spend more time fishing
    Unintentionally hooking a marine mammal or turtle can ruin a good day of fishing. Fishing areas with a high concentration of protected species expose both fisherman and marine mammal to risk. It's good to think of these mammals as dependent on the area and to respect their use and dependence by using barbless circle hooks. Barbless circle hooks reduce potential injury in the event of an accidental hooking or entanglement, and allow for quicker release or self-shedding release to reduce trauma and enable a return to normal activities.
  • Catch more fish
    Every fisherman knows what it is like to lose a fish. Barbless hooks can help the fish that got away or in the case of lost fishing rigs hooking up - the hooks should enable self-shedding which will allow for a quick resumption of feeding and minimal injury which means a better chance for survival. Using barbless also allows you to more quickly release unwanted catch which means more and healthier fish for you to catch in the future.
  • Stay safe
    Safety is an ongoing concern for all fishermen. The use of barbless hooks can minimize injury and save a fishing day from an expensive emergency room visit. Pinching down the barb will result in an easier time unhooking that fish, as well as the scoop net, t-shirt, shorts, hat, ear, or your finger.