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Looking to catch some catfish but don’t know which hook size to go for? If so, then you are in the right place since this is exactly what we are going to talk about today.
To be fair, there’s nothing really difficult about hook sizes for catfish – if you know catfish, then it won’t be difficult for you to pick the right hook for it.
But if you are a newbie or not too experienced and hook sizing is too complex for you, then our guide should be able to help you!
What Size of Hook for Catfish?
Unlike many other fish species, catfish have strong and difficult to penetrate lips, which generally means that you should use a larger hook. With that said, you should use as small and thin hook as possible since they penetrate easier. You would go for a larger and stronger hook only if smaller hooks do not work.
Which hook size to go for depends on the kind of fishing hook you are using and the catfish species you are fishing for. A little later, we’ll overview proper sizes for each of the hook types that are commonly used for catfish fishing.
Now, let’s have a look at the general things that you’d consider when choosing a fishing hook size. These rules are similar to those of other fish – for example, trout – but adjusted for the features of catfish.
This one is true for any kind of fish – the bigger the fish, the larger hook size you will need.
As mentioned above, you’d want to go as small as possible since smaller hooks will probably have an easier time penetrating the mouth of catfish. You don’t want to go too small though since an insufficiently sized hook may break, be unable to penetrate the fish’s mouth, or the fish may just swallow it along with the bait.
On the other hand, if you opt for a hook that’s too big, it may be unable to do its job properly, or it may severely damage the fish’s mouth.
So all in all, don’t go larger than needed – a large hook isn’t necessarily going to make your job easier.
This criterion applies to any fish, and you’ve probably heard of it.
The hook needs to be small enough to stay invisible for the fish, and it needs to be large enough to be able to do its job. A good rule of thumb is to leave the hook’s tip exposed as little as possible – this way, it will be able to trap the fish but will be less likely to make the fish suspicious.
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Fishing Hook Sizes
Before having a look at the proper fishing hook sizes for catfish, you should first understand how fishing hooks are sized. Things aren’t as straightforward as you may think.
If you’ve read our trout hook size guide, then you already know how fishing hook sizes work. If not, then we’ll repeat the guide here so that you don’t have to leave this page.
So, fishing hooks are sized by two scales – the normal scale and the aught scale. Let’s see what these scales are.
On the normal scale, hook sizes are denoted with a number, e.g. 8 or 12. In this scale, the higher the number, the smaller the hook is. For example, a size 8 hook is larger than a size 12 hook.
This is the thing that confuses beginners the most – the normal scale is quite unintuitive.
Hook sizes in the normal scale usually go from 1 (which is the largest size) to 18 or more. With that said, there are far larger hooks out there than a size 1. And here’s when the aught scale comes into play.
Be mindful that sizes both in normal and aught scales do not show the absolute size of the hook in inches. Rather, they show the relative size of the hook compared to larger hooks.
Aside from that, fishing hook sizes may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer since they may measure their hooks differently.
In the aught scale, fishing hook sizes are denoted by a number followed by /0. Hook size examples in the aught scale are 1/0, 6/0, 10/0, etc. In the aught scale, the larger the number before /, the larger the hook is.
When it comes to hook sizes, the difference between the two commonly used scales is the thing that confuses beginners the most. Not only have you two scales with different notations, but the sizes are measured differently in them as well.
The 1/0 hook size – which usually is the smallest size on the aught scale – is slightly larger than a size 1 hook on the normal scale. Due to this, the aught scale is a continuation of the normal scale.
Hooks sized by the aught scale are commonly used with larger fish, especially saltwater fish. Anglers use large aught-scale hooks with catfish as well, though some hook types will require you to opt for hooks sized by the normal scale.
Fishing Hook Gauge
With catfish, the hook gauge is also very important.
The hook gauge determines the strength and thickness of the hook. And since catfish have thick and strong lips, anglers usually use heavier-gauge fishing hooks.
Hook gauges are denoted with a number followed by the X descriptor, e.g. 2X or 3X. Normal-gauge hooks are designated 1X. 2X, 3X, etc. show the relative thickness of the hook – for example, 2X hooks are twice as strong as 1X hooks.
For catfish fishing, you should go for the strongest fishing hook you can find. Normal-gauge fishing hooks may work with catfish, but if you are dealing with larger and heavier fish, you will probably have to use stronger fishing hooks.
Catfish Hook Styles
Now that we understand how fishing hook sizes work, we can have a look at the fishing hook styles commonly used with catfish. Since they aren’t quite the same, their sizing is going to slightly differ.
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Circle hooks are quite commonly used with catfish since they allow for an easy and harmless catch.
Compared to traditional J-hooks, circle hooks have a more curved shape which allows the hook to catch the fish more securely. The point is also curved back so that it’s perpendicular to the hook shank.
Not only that, but the shape of the hook makes it catch the fish by the lips, which significantly reduces its mortality rate. Due to this, circle hooks are commonly used in catch-and-release fishing.
On the other hand, circle hooks require different retrieval techniques – you need to reel the hook in rather than set it (like you would do with other hook styles).
Medium-sized channel catfish are usually caught with size 5/0 or 6/0 circle hooks. For larger blue catfish, you may need to use hooks as large as size 10/0. Needless to say, you adjust the size of the hook depending on the fish and bait.
With circle hooks, it’s important to pick a sufficiently-sized hook. It’s better to go large than too small since a small hook may be unable to capture the fish by the lips. An oversized hook still has a good chance of catching the fish by its lip, but you shouldn’t go for an excessively sized hook since the fish may be unable to even take it in its mouth.
Keep in mind that circle hooks work the best with catfish species like blue catfish, flatheads, and channel catfish since they are large and bite aggressively, making your job easier.
The most notable feature of Kahle hooks is the wider gap which allows for the use of larger bait. Kahle hooks allow you to use a bigger chunk of live bait, as well as larger bait like stinkbait or chicken livers, which do a pretty good job at attracting catfish. Alternative baits like crickets or grasshoppers are also commonly used with Kahle hooks.
Kahle hooks aren’t as fish-friendly as circle hooks. They are closer to J-hooks in this regard. With that said, Kahle hooks can be much more effective with catfish, but this depends on the catfish and your bait.
The recommended size of Kahle hooks is a little smaller than circle hooks, but this depends on the type of catfish.
Size 4/0 or 5/0 Kahle hooks should work well for blue catfish that weighs 10 pounds and more, while 2/0 or 3/0 hooks tend to work well with lighter catfish. For channel catfish, a good size tends to be 2/0 or 3/0, but you may go up or down if necessary.
Treble hooks are also very commonly used by anglers with catfish, but not in catch-and-release fishing.
Treble hooks consist of 3 hooks that connect to the same shank. Since this hook has 3 points to trap the fish on, the chance of success is increased quite a bit. On the other hand, treble hooks are very damaging to the fish, and you should not use them if you are planning to do catch-and-release fishing.
The sizing of treble hooks is usually given not for the entire hook but for each of its hooks separately. If a treble hook is advertized to be sized 6, then it means that it has 3 hooks that are each sized 6. This may not apply to every treble hook out there, so make sure to consult the manufacturer to see how they measure their hooks.
When picking treble hook size, you need to go smaller than expected.
For medium-sized channel catfish, treble hook sizes that work well are from 2 to 8. Since this is the normal scale, you use size 2 hooks for larger fish and size 8 hooks for smaller fish.
If fishing for blue catfish, a size 1 or 1/0 treble hook should be good enough. With that said, treble hooks are most commonly used with channel catfish. For blue catfish, you’d usually use Kahle or circle hooks.
What Style & Size Fishing Hook to Choose for Catfish?
So there are plenty of hook styles used for catfish, but which one from them to choose?
Well, it appears that anglers mostly use circle hooks to fish for catfish. As described earlier, circle hooks are very effective if used properly, and they also are fish-friendly.
When it comes to size, we’ve overviewed proper sizes for circle hooks above – use 5/0 or 6/0 circle hooks for medium-sized catfish and up to 10/0 size hooks for blue catfish and other large catfish species.
With that said, it’s difficult to say precisely which hook size you will need to use. Due to this, you should buy a circle hook set with plenty of sizes. Then, trial and error should allow you to pick the right hook size for the catfish that live in your area.
Keep in mind that proper technique is crucial with circle hooks. Circle hooks are reeled in rather than set, so you’ll need to learn to use them properly. Often, when one fails at catching catfish, it’s not the circle hook size that’s wrong – it’s the retrieval technique that’s poor.
If you switch hook sizes and find that the issue persists, then you are probably doing something else wrong.
As for other hook styles, you don’t really need to use them unless you need their benefits specifically. Circle hooks do the job well enough, and you may not ever need a different style of fishing hook for your needs.
If you are wondering about J-hooks that are very commonly used in fishing, then know that they aren’t too popular nowadays with catfish fishing. J-hooks work very well with many fish species, but with the increasing popularity of circle hooks and other hook styles, J-hooks aren’t as common now as they used to be.
And finally, do not overthink fishing hook sizes – you won’t know whether the hook size is right or wrong until you try to catch some catfish. But first, make sure that all the elements of your fishing technique are spot-on, and only then try to optimize your fishing performance by switching to differently-sized fishing hooks.