In the 1970s, when we first started halibut fishing off the Deep Creek coast of Cook Inlet, we used herring for bait on J hooks—hooks you had to be on all the time and ready to set the hook like you want to rip the lips right off that fish. But these hooks worked just fine and we never had any problem bringing home all of the halibut we needed.
Times change, however, and so in fact did the standard hook setup for halibut fishing. Over the years, circle hooks have become the standard for bait fishing halibut in Cook Inlet. And they work. As long as you can train yourself not to set the hook like you did with those old J hooks. You have to “let them eat,” something that took me several years to get the hang of—it’s not easy to patiently watch while the rod is pulled down through a strike from the deep.But I finally got it.
Now imagine going from that environment back to the set-the-hook hard and fast environment of silver fishing with eggs in the fall. I discovered I was oftentimes torn between setting and letting them eat and was regularly losing fish I shouldn’t have lost.
Not being particularly bright it took me a couple of seasons to figure out I was crossing my halibut fishing with my silver fishing and thus the not-so-desirable results. But half the fun of fishing is new challenges that one must figure out and so I had a mission to best this issue.
It took a lot of gazing over tackle catalogs to finally find the answer…small circle hooks. Turns out Maruto, a Japanese fish-hook manufacturer, made the answer to my prayers. Circle hooks in the 2/0, 3/0 and 4/0 sizes we normally use for egg-fishing for silvers. I found them in the Bass Pro Shop catalog and promptly ordered some. Of course they were not available as a tied egg-loop rig so that just added to the challenge.
Tying egg loops on small circle hooks is a bit more difficult than with straight-shank hooks, but not that difficult. In fact, tying your own allows you to put the loop on the underside of the shank, putting your eggs more around the hook and getting better hookups.
Now I can rig a circle hook on my silver egg setup, toss it out there and “let them eat.” But don’t take my word for it, give it a try, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.