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The Fishing Report

Sturgeon Fishing with a Circle Hook

Fishing hooks have probably been around for around 40,000 years. The earliest of these were likely made of wood and thus did not survive. Metal and bone hooks were found in Norway which were dated at about 9,000 years old. In general, fishing hooks all have the basic “J” style bend. There is another hook shape which truly separates itself from the crowd. It is the circle hook, and there is nothing new about it.


Sturgeon Fishing Circle Hook

Modern Day Circle Hook


Ancient Circle hook

Ancient Circle Hook

Here we have two examples of circle hooks. The illustration is of a circle hook carved from human bones on Easter Island and the photo is of a modern circle hook made by humans in a factory.


The circle hook works. Because the bend in the point of the hook curves in towards the shaft, the hook will not grab onto to any surface that does not extend outwards. Basically, a fish can swallow the hook and it won’t catch on anything except the fish’s jaw, usually in the corner of the mouth. In some states like North Carolina, circle hooks have become mandatory for older gamefish like the Red Drum because the chance of ‘deep hooking’ one of these fish in its stomach, throat, or gills is substantially lower with a circle hook than with a “J” style hook.

On our Hells Canyon and Salmon River trips our guides and clients often enjoy getting to catch and see a white sturgeon. These modern dinosaurs grow in excess of ten feet and can be well over 100 years old. They are truly a magnificent animal. The sturgeon population in the Snake River is not doing as well as in the Columbia where anglers can keep fish between 43” and 54”. In the Salmon and Snake Rivers no Sturgeon can be kept or removed from the water and it is mandatory to use barbless hooks to aid anglers in safely releasing fish.

At Winding Waters River Expeditions we have switched to using circle hooks for Sturgeon so that we reduce the chance of injuring one of these freshwater giants. The circle hooks have been tremendously effective at hooking up and retaining the fish. In the last two seasons every single sturgeon we have hooked using circle hooks has been hooked in the corner of the fish’s mouth and did not injure the fish. We believe in sustainable fisheries, leave-no-trace camping, and doing right by the animals that live in the places we love.  Last June, my friends and I caught a sturgeon at Dug Bar on the Snake River where my grandpa, Doug Tippet, grew up. As a boy his family subsisted on sturgeon meat for some parts of the year. He once caught a sturgeon that was too big for him to carry so he loaded the fish onto his pony and brought it home. I can only imagine how proud he must have felt. The fish we caught last year in that same part of the river was most likely already between 20 and 30 years old when my grandpa was puffing out his ten year old chest leading his burdened pony up the trail to his home in the canyons. Will our grandchildren be able to catch sturgeon in the Snake River? If we all use circle hooks, it is a step in the right direction.

Call us if you want to go Sturgeon fishing and see how these Circle Hooks Work.