Summer always makes me think of panfish, or more specifically taking little kids fishing with bait and bobber. Small children need more or less instant results to hold their interest. The little sunfishes hanging around off the end of a dock are usually very accommodating. It’s a great combination.
The biggest problem comes in unhooking and releasing all those little sunnies. Some will have swallowed the hook. I’d rather not have my young granddaughter see me wrench the guts out of a 4-inch pumpkinseed to retrieve it. So, a few days ago, I experimented with little circle hooks.
The results were just great. As the close-up photo shows, little circle hooks jaw-hooked the small sunnies, making for an easy release. Specifically, I used size 12 Eagle Claw “Circle Bait” hooks, model L702G. The bait was Berkley’s Gulp! Alive! one-inch minnow, which comes in a liquid-filled jar and is very easy to use. (I was too lazy to dig garden worms.)
Fished under a slip-bobber rig, that hook-and-bait combo caught 24 small sunfish as fast as I could reel them in. Every one was jaw-hooked no matter how long I let the fish tug the bobber around before I started reeling. There is no hookset required. The nature of circle hooks is such that all you do is reel in–perfect for little kids.
A couple of cautions: Make sure whatever circle hook you use is non-offset. Circle hooks with offset points–meaning bent to the side–gut-hook fish regularly. Non-offset hooks do not. The Eagle Claw L702G is non-offset, but unfortunately is not labeled as such. Now you know.
Also, unhooking fish requires a slight twist of the wrist because of the circular hook design. The straight pull you’re probably used to won’t work. Grab the hook with fingers or forceps and twist to remove. It’s odd at first, but practice makes perfect. And while you’re at it, pinch down the barb–something I probably should have done but didn’t.