Circle hooks, designed to improve the survival rate of released fish, will be required in both state and federal water beginning March 3, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The requirement for non-stainless steel circle hooks will apply to all marine species in the snapper-grouper
complex, a grouping of bottom fish species defined by the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC).

See the complete list (Pdf file) of species in the snapper-grouper complex.

Species caught in state waters most affected by this new regulation include sheepshead, spadefish and black sea bass. Circle hooks come in a full range of sizes and are readily available at tackle shops.

Circle hooks have the point turned inward, back towards the shank to form a circle or oval. They hook fish in the corner of the mouth causing only superficial injury and almost never gut hook a fish, which usually is fatal.

The DNR has long recommended the use of circle hooks in saltwater because of their proven ability to increase survival of released fish of many species.

The SAFMC will this year consider recommending removal of 35 species from the complex, which would transfer management to the states lifting the federal requirement for the use of circle hooks.