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Best Hooks for Trout Fishing

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on August 17, 2020. In Fishing

Trout are very wary of anything in the water. That means if you’re serious about trout fishing you need to be serious about your trout hook. There are many types and sizes of hooks you could use for trout fishing. Some are definitely going to be better than others. A smaller hook size is usually best for catching trout. The larger the hook size, the more likely trout will see it as something to avoid.

Brown trout and speckled trout are known for having a good eye for hooks. That means the wrong hook can warn them off your bait entirely. You should know what size trout you’re looking for ahead of time and tailor your hook to it. Having a large selection of sizes in your tackle box will make this easier for you to switch on the fly.

Brook trout and speckled trout tend to be pretty small. That means a smaller hook size would be in order for them. Mature brown trout and rainbow trout are much bigger. You’ll need to adjust your hooks accordingly. Likewise, if you’re in a stocked pond, you need to be aware of hook size. Stocked ponds will likely have younger and older fish in them. You can use a bigger hook to avoid the smaller trout.

Regardless of what size trout you’re looking for, a smaller hook is always best. Use the smallest hook possible to catch what you’re after. Trout do not have large mouths. Many fish respond better to large hooks because they do have those large amounts. Think of things like largemouth bass. Trout have naturally smaller mouths, and smaller hooks are ideal.

The instincts of a new fisherman is to try to use bigger hooks for trout. It seems like a small hook would do a worse job but that’s not the case. When you fish for trout, always lean towards small hooks.

Single Hooks

The most popular choice when fishing for trout are single hooks. They are less noticeable than the other kinds of fishing hooks. They’re also the most basic kind of hook. Because trout are so wary in the water, a single hook is often best. Not only do trout have good eyesight, they have perceptive lateral lines. These can detect vibrations under the water. They also detect changes in pressure. That allows them to detect abnormalities like your hook. The less noticeable a hook is, the better.

You always want to use a single hook for bait fishing. For fly fishing as well. There are a number of kinds of single hooks available.

J Hooks: Like the name suggests, a J-hook is shaped like the letter J. The shank is straight and there is a J-loop at the bottom. These could hook anywhere in the fish’s mouth and you do need to set them. These are best for using live bait. Unfortunately, if you use the wrong size J-hook for fishing it can really damage the fish. They can get lodge anywhere in the fish’s mouth or and its digestive tract. A lot of fish have died because of improperly set J-hooks.

Circle Hooks: Circle hooks are rounded and designed to loop to the corner of the fish’s mouth. You don’t have to set one of these hooks. It can be harder to keep bait on a circle hook than on a J-hook.

Kahle Hooks: These hooks are kind of a cross between J-hooks and circle hooks. These fishing hooks have a high incidence of gut hooking. It’s believed that they are some of the most damaging to trout.

Try using anywhere from a size 12 for normal trout up to a size 8 if you’re looking for larger ones with powerbait. If you’re using live bait like nightcrawlers the same rules should apply.

If you know that there are some really large trout in the water you may want to bump that up to a size 4. This would only be a good idea in murky waters. If the water is exceptionally clear, choose a smaller hook. Choose a size 10 at the biggest.

If your fishing for smaller brook trout, a size 16 hook would not be inappropriate. This could work in rivers or small stocked ponds.

Depending on the kind of bait you are using, longer shanks may be in order.

Double Hooks

Double hooks are some of the rarest hooks anglers use. Odds are you won’t ever find the occasion to use a double hook. They are sometimes used when tying large flies. You could also use a double hook with powerbait. For the most part, you don’t really need to worry about double hooks. Single hooks or treble hooks can do any job a double hook can do just as well.

Treble Hooks

Treble hooks are three hooks joined at the shaft. These are common on trout lures. It’s much less common to use a treble hook than a single hook, however. As we said, trout can be very skittish. When they can see a hook they will often avoid the hook. It makes sense then that a treble hook would be something they try to avoid. It’s three times as visible as a single hook.

Small treble hooks are good for use with powerbait. Larger ones can do well with spinners and trolling lures. If you’re using treble hooks, stick with sizes 12, 14, or 16. These are ideal if you’re using powerbait for trout fishing.

You would only use treble hooks if you plan on keeping and eating your catch. It’s all but impossible to remove a treble hook without hurting the fish. If you are catch and release fishing there is no reason to use treble hooks for trout.

Barbless Hooks

These days many anglers will use barbless fishing hooks for trout fishing. They are much less damaging to fish when you catch them. If you are doing catch and release, this is the best choice. As the name suggests a barbless hook does not have that barb at the tip. That means it will cause less damage when it hooks a fish through the mouth. The smooth point can be easily removed.

If it’s not your goal to eat what you catch, you should always be using a barbless hook. Many places require that you use these hooks now. It’s part of conservation and being a responsible fisherman. As you’ve no doubt seen, fish don’t always hit the hook the same way. Sometimes you’ll pierce a lip, sometimes the hookah can pierce the fish’s face. They are always susceptible to unexpected damage. Without the barb, this damage is greatly lessened. It increases the chance that the fish will survive the encounter.

If you have a lot of hooks that have barbs on them you can transform them into barbless hooks. You can use fishing pliers to flatten down the barb. There will still be a bump there, but it won’t be as damaging to the fish.

Check local regulations before you go fishing. This should always be a rule of thumb you follow. If you get caught fishing with a barbed hook where it’s not legal, you could get fined. Or lose your fishing license. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and better for the fish.

Hook Size: Numbers vs Aughts

What kind of hook you should use is probably the most common question for trout fishing. The next most common question is what hook size to use. This question is a little harder to answer. The hook size depends on a few factors. The most obvious is the size of the trout you’re after. It does get more complicated than that, though. There is more than one way to size a hook.

Number Sizing: This is sometimes called the normal scale for hook size. These hooks are sized by numbers starting at 1 and going up from there. The hook size goes down as the number goes up. That means that a 1 is the largest kind of hook a company will make. A 2 is smaller, and a 3 is smaller than that. Some hook sizes go all the way up to 16 or more. These would be very small hooks.

Unfortunately, there is no universal sizing when it comes to this normal scale. That means a size 4 from Gamakatsu may be different from a size 4 from Eagle Claw. Hook sizes are sometimes left up to you to eyeball for that reason.

Aught Sizing: Aught hooks work in the opposite direction of the number scale. For these hooks the size will be listed as something like 3 / 0 or 4/0. In this case, a 4/0 hook is larger than the 3/0. These hook sizes are generally too big for trout.

The aught scale basically takes over where the number scale leaves off. When you think of it this way, it makes it less confusing that there are two different sizing scales. That means a size 1 hook is very similar in size to a size 1/0 hook. A size 2/0 hook is larger than anything on the single number scale. In general a 1/0 hook is the medium size that you would use for any kind of fishing.

Hook Gauge

The gauge of the hook is different from the size of the hook. Gauge refers to the thickness of the wire. These are measured with a number X scale. That means gauges are measured as 1X, 2X, 3X and so on. The X refers to a multiple. So 2X is 2 times as strong as one. 3X is 3 times as strong. The higher the number, the thicker the wire.

When fishing for trout, a thicker wire makes the hook more noticeable. That means a lower gauge is going to be what you want. The larger sizes, like 3X and 4X are really best suited for big fish. Even things like ocean fishing. There’s not a lot of practical use in trout fishing for a hook this size. Large gauge are just not the hooks for trout fishing.

Hook Sharpness

This is something a lot of people overlook. The point of a hook almost always looks sharp. And you never want to actually stab yourself on one. But one of the biggest reasons for losing trout is dull trout hooks. You can find fish hook sharpeners on Amazon for under $10. It’s always a good idea to have one in your tackle box. Give any hook a quick run across it before you go fishing. That will do a lot to increase your ability to catch trout.

Even a hook that looks sharp may not be. They dull very quickly, especially if they’re jumbled in a tackle box.

Baiting Your Hook

Concealing your trout hook is always important when trout fishing. Depending on the kind of bait you use, this can change how you bait the hook obviously. For worms, it’s good to hook them multiple times. That keeps the bait secure and keeps the trout hook hidden.

When it comes to something like corn or salmon eggs, you want to load up on multiple to keep the hook hidden from view. The same goes for powerbait.

Things to Remember

In general, trout hooks that are size 8 to 14 are going to be best. Always use barbless hooks for trout unless you plan to eat what you catch. Smaller hooks are always best for trout because they will see larger hooks if the water is clear enough. An invisible fluorocarbon fishing line with a small hook makes it ideal combo for trout fishing.

Try a few combinations of hooks and bait to see what works best for you. It all depends on the trout you’re after, and the water your fishing in. Remember, trout fishing is supposed to be fun above all.

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