Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Circle Hook Regulation Coming to MA in 2020. RI to Follow in 2021

In this case, my circle hook
did just what it was intended
to do as it hooked this small
keeper right in the lip. The fish
was released in good shape.
If you are a bait fisherman who fishes for striped bass in MA, inline circle hooks will be required in 2020. This reg was put into law to help reduce the mortality rate of stripers caught on bait since the use of circle hooks greatly reduces, though does not eliminate, a bad hook-up (swallowed hook or hook in the gills).
Here is a copy of the MA regulation:
Effective next year (2020), recreational anglers not fishing aboard for-hire vessels will be required to use inline circle hooks when fishing for striped bass with whole or cut natural baits. This will include fishing with whole or cut natural baits while in possession of striped bass as well. This circle hook mandate will not apply to natural baits attached to an artificial lure to be trolled, jigged, or casted and retrieved (e.g., tube and worm). Nor will the mandate apply to any natural bait affixed to a treble hook and fished using the snag and drop technique. A hook is considered to be an in-line circle hook only if it is manufactured so the barb of the hook is in-line with the shank and bend of the hook and is turned perpendicularly back to the shank to form a circular or oval shape.
The above law answers many of the questions I had and doesn't address some. Here are just a few of those questions and how I interpret this:
*How about offset circle hooks? No good
*Snagging pogies on a treble hook and letting them drop? That seems to be ok to do.
*Fishing with squid strips on a jig? ok
*Using a rigged eel with traditional hooks? not sure
*Use of eel skin plugs with a treble hook? ok
*Use of live eels? Need to use a circle hook.
*Fishing for blues, black sea bass or other fish with traditional bait hooks? not sure
So, you can see there are some gray areas here. We might see further clarification of this regulation in the coming months.