When Capt. Lenny Maiolatesi mentioned that circle hooks gave him a decided advantage over grouper when it came to getting them in the boat, I wondered why. I had seen other anglers using circle hooks even for inshore fish like speckled trout and redfish.

However, I have always been wary of using them because I always thought a circle hook looked like it could never hook a fish with the point bent in like that. Why in the world would Maiolatesi use them?

"First off, it's all circle-hook fishing," he replied. "You have to use them by federal regulations if you reef fish. They force us to. But this circle-hook thing is all kind of a myth, in my opinion. The government says we've got to use them to help ensure the survival of released fish.

"But go back and look at who was using them before they even started talking about circle hooks. All the commercial fishermen were using them because when a fish gets hooked on a circle hook, he's there to stay - end of story."

The reason circle hooks are so effective is that they are designed so that the point is turned perpendicularly back to the shank of the hook to form a circular shape.

When a fish eats a bait, the hook slides out and hooks the fish in the corner of its mouth. The premise behind the circle-hook requirement is that circle hooks are more likely to hook fish in the mouth rather than the esophagus or stomach.

"They talk about circle hooks being what we need to use if we want to release fish - the circle of life and all that," Maiolatesi said. "I have a hard time understanding that because we still do gut-hook some fish with circle hooks. Plus these things don't come out of their mouths easily."

Maiolatesi commented that he has to put in so much effort with all the twisting and pushing to get a circle hook out that it tears up a fish's face, and he winds up "beating the hell out of it before getting him off."

"I'm going to use them because they help me catch reef fish," he said. "However, for reef fishing, all you've got to do is set the hook relatively quickly. I could fish a Kahle hook or J hook all day long and not gut hook a fish.

"But I've got to say the circle hooks are made for grouper fishing. The guys who are long-lining for grouper and putting out mile-long 500- and 1,000-hook sets - it's all circle hooks because they don't want to lose any fish. Grouper swallow the bait whole, swim off and get hooked. It's as simple as that."

Editor's note: This article is part of the Group Therapy feature in the July issue of Mississippi Sportsman. Digital editions can be downloaded right to your computer or smartphone.

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