Long shank, fine wire Aberdeen hooks and fresh lug are the perfect combination for smallmouthed flatfish such as this plump 3 lb (1.4kg) summertime plaice.
A wide range of hook sizes is used in sea fishing around Britain, reflecting the different fish you can catch and the variety of baits you can use. The basic range, in ascending order of size, is: 8, 6, 4, 2, 1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, 6/0, 7/0, 8/0, 9/0, 10/0, 12/0 and 14/0.
Congers are all muscle. To have any chance of hauling one from its lair you need a strong rod, strong line, a large, strong O’Shaughnessy hook – and last but not least, a strong back.
A dogfish from the deep is brought alongside the boat. Size 2/0 or 3/0 Kamasan B940 Aberdeens are ideal for this hard- mouthed fish. They are made from thicker and stronger wire than normal Aberdeens.
Twin-point Aberdeens are a recent and very effective innovation for shore fishing with worm baits, because the bait stays on the hook so well. Squeeze the two points together and push a baiting needle on to the single point formed. Thread the worm up the needle on to the shank and line. Remove the needle and the two points spring apart, stopping the worm sliding off the hook.
The best rod, reel, line and bait in the world are wasted with the wrong hook, advises top Southern sea match angler Tony Kirrage.
The golden rule is always to match the size and type of hook to the size and type of fish you are seeking and the size and type of bait you are using.
It’s largely a matter of common sense – a small, fine wire hook suitable for dabs is clearly not up to the job of landing a shark, while even the greediest dab would be hard pressed to get a huge, forged hook designed for shark fishing into its mouth. Equally, a small, fine wire hook cannot be expected to hold a whole mackerel bait, nor a large, forged hook a tiny harbour rag-worm.
Yet many anglers – some of them quite experienced – too often choose the wrong hook for the job. They still catch fish, of course, but they would catch many more if they gave a little more thought to their choice of hooks.
Five main types of hook cover the sea angler’s needs, not counting freshwater hooks for mullet fishing or treble hooks attached to pirks, spinners and trolling lures. The five are: Aberdeen, Limerick, Uptide, O’Shaughnessy and Seamaster.
The hook for the job
Below are the recommended hook sizes and types for most of the popular fish sought in the seas around Britain. Mullet are wary, small-mouthed and hard-fighting fish. Use short shank, forged, size 8 and 6 freshwater hooks when fishing with small, delicate baits such as bread and harbour ragworm.
Dabs, plaice and flounders For these small-mouthed fish, choose size 4 and 2 Aberdeens when fishing with worm baits in calm seas. These hooks can also land bonus codling and bass. In choppy seas use a larger and stronger size 1/0 Aberdeen. When fishing for flounders with peeler crab, use a size 4 or 2 Limerick. Sole Small hooks are essential as sole have very small mouths. Size 6 and 4 Aberdeens are best for worm baits.
Eels Use size 4 and 2 Limericks for shore fishing with peeler crab as bait. Whiting A bold biter that rattles and thumps your rod tip, this is nevertheless one of the hardest fish to hook. Use an extra sharp size 1 Aberdeen. Bass When fishing over rocks, large hooks are essential to land hard-fighting bass. A size 6/0 Uptide is favourite for crab baits, a size 6/0 Kamasan B940 Aberdeen – a stronger, thicker wire Aberdeen — for worm and sandeel baits. When fishing over sand, a size 2/0 is big enough. Wrasse A strong, sharp hook is needed when fishing off rocks for these hard-fighting, bony-mouthed fish. A size 1 O’Shaughnessy is ideal. Cod Use size 1/0 and 2/0 Uptides for shore fishing. In these sizes Uptides are also small enough to hook any smaller fish about, such as whiting, dabs and flounders.
When boat fishing for cod you need a larger, stronger hook – a size 5/0 or 6/0 Uptide or
Pollack and coalfish Use size 3/0 and 4/
O’Shaughnessy hooks with artificial eels and fish baits. For delicate baits such as king ragworm and live sandeels, choose Kamasan B940 Aberdeens in the same sizes as the O’Shaughnessy hooks. Dogfish and smooth-hounds Extra sharp size 2/0 and 3/0 Kamasan B940 Aberdeens are ideal for these hard mouthed fish. Conger, ling and tope You need a big, strong hook when fishing with large baits such as whole mackerel for these large, hard-fighting fish. Use size 7/0, 8/0,9/0 and 10/0 O’Shaughnessy hooks. Sharks The recommended hooks for boat fishing with very big baits for these very large and powerful fish are size 10/0, 12/0 and 14/0 Seamaster hooks. A Seamaster is a short shank, medium gape hook made of even thicker and stronger wire than the O’Shaughnessy.
Care of your hooks
Keep your hooks sharp or you will miss bites and lose fish. One retrieve over rough ground is enough to blunt any hook. For small hooks, buy a sharpening stone and touch up the point every cast. For large O’Shaughnessy and Seamaster hooks, use a metal file to sharpen the point and the edge from the point to the barb.
When you pack up, never put used hooks back in with unused ones — the salt water will rust them all in days. If you decide to throw your used hooks away, wait until you get home before doing so. If you decide to keep and re-use them, rinse in fresh water, dry thoroughly, wipe with an oily rag and store in a dry place.