A large portion of one’s fishing ability comes down to skills. But no skilled angler is good without proper equipment.
When it comes to fishing tackle, everything matters, from bigger things like fishing rods or reels to smaller things like hook size.
Proper hook size is going to be the topic of this post. More precisely, we will be talking about the proper hook size for trout fishing.
What Size of Hook for Trout to Use?
The general rule for hook sizes for trout fishing is that the hook should be as small as possible. That’s because trout:
- Have great vision.
- Have small mouths that just won’t take larger hooks.
- In crystal clear waters, trout have little to no problem with spotting big or badly-concealed fishing hooks, which means that your hook needs to be nearly invisible. Otherwise, trout will become suspicious.
But even though the general rule for trout fishing is to pick a smaller hook size, there are 3 things that will determine which hook size to choose:
- The size of the trout you are fishing for.
- The size of your bait.
- The clarity of the water.
Let’s briefly overview each of these criteria.
The Size of The Trout
The bigger the trout, the larger hook you will be able to use. This one is a no brainer – large trout have larger mouths, meaning that you can afford to use large hooks. Anglers usually use hooks sized from 8 for larger trout and 14 for smaller trout.
And yes, higher hook size numbers mean that the hook is smaller, which we will cover a little later.
You will probably need to do some trial and error to determine which size to choose for the trout you are fishing. There are no precise ways of picking hook sizes, so you will need to rely on intuition and experience.
A too-small hook may not be able to trap the trout, while a too-large hook will just shred the fish’s mouth into pieces or will make it suspicious from afar.
Also, if the hook is too small, the trout may just swallow it. While a swallowed hook can harm the fish severely, it doesn’t do good to you if you are unable to catch the fish.
The Bait Size
While the main criteria to look for when choosing a hook size is the size of the trout, the size of your bait or lure is also a pretty important thing to consider.
No matter what kind of a bait or lure you choose – be it live bait insects, fish eggs, or lures like Rebel Wee-Crawfish – you should choose a hook size based on the size of the lure (and the trout size, of course).
On one hand, the hook shouldn’t be too big since it needs to stay concealed and nearly invisible to the eye of the trout. This is what we’ve already talked about above. Besides, large hooks may kill live bait too fast.
On the other hand, the hook shouldn’t be so small that it stays hidden inside the bait or lure. Remember – the purpose of the hook is to trap the fish, and if the hook’s barely sticking out of the bait, you probably won’t have a catch.
The Water Clarity
Finally, how clear the water is will also determine the right hook size to use.
In clear water, you should go as small as possible since the trout will have an easy time spotting the hook. In murky water, on the other hand, you may go a little bigger. Larger hooks are easier to work with, and larger hooks are more likely to trap the fish for good.
Overall, when picking a hook size, you will have to consider all the 3 criteria overviewed above. Don’t isolate your decision to just the fish or bait size – every single detail is important. And while it’s not easy to say which hook size will be ideal for the current conditions, you should try to be as precise as possible.
Understanding Hook Sizes
Now that we generally understand how you should be choosing hook sizes for fishing, let’s try to understand how hooks are sized. It’s not as easy as beginners may think, as we mentioned a little earlier above.
To make things more complicated, manufacturers use 2 hook sizing systems. One is the normal scale and the other the aught scale. While proper hooks for trout are sized by the normal scale, you should know what each of these scales is to avoid confusion.
In the normal scale, hook sizes are denoted by a single number like 8 or 12. In this scale, the higher the number, the smaller the hook is. For example, a hook sized 12 is smaller than a hook sized 11. This is counterintuitive, but it’s pretty easy to grasp.
It appears that such sizing logic is linked to metal wires in which fishing hooks have long been made from. The gauge, i.e. the thickness of the wire, follows the same logic as normal-scale hook sizes – smaller gauges mean a thicker wire.
Keep in mind that fish hook sizes aren’t absolute sizes, i.e. size 12 doesn’t mean that a hook is sized 12 inches. Instead, it shows the relative size of the hook to the maximum hook size, which is 1.
Then comes the aught scale that you will probably never have to worry about if fishing for trout. This scale essentially is a continuation of the normal scale.
We know that the smaller the number on the normal scale, the larger the hook. This means that a size 1 hook is the largest size of them all. However, there are hooks sized much larger than size 1 hooks.
How do you designate these larger hooks? Well, one way would be to assign negative sizes to hooks, which would probably make things even more confusing. But instead, manufacturers use what is called the aught scale.
Sizes in the aught scale are denoted with a number followed by /0, e.g. 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, etc. In this system, the larger the number before /, the larger the hook is. Here, things are more intuitive since you’d expect large numbers to mean large sizes.
1/0, which is the smallest size in this system, is slightly larger than a size 1 hook. Thus, the aught scale is a continuation of the normal scale.
Since the aught scale is used for larger hooks, aught-sized hooks are commonly used for larger saltwater fish species. If you will be fishing for them, then you may have to one day make use of the aught scale, but not if fishing just for trout.
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Another thing that you may want to consider when shopping for fishing hooks is the hook gauge.
The hook gauge is the same as its thickness. And while hook and metal gauges have a similar meaning, you shouldn’t confuse them with each other.
Hook gauges are commonly denoted with an X descriptor, e.g. 1X, 2X, 3X, etc. Like it is with hook sizes, the hook gauge shows the relative strength and thickness of a hook – for example, a 2X hook is 2 times thicker and stronger than a 1X hook (which is also called a normal-gauge hook).
You probably won’t have to go for heavier-gauged hooks for trout fishing. Normal-gauge hooks work very well in most cases. If you find that normal-gauge hooks are too weak for your needs though, then go ahead and buy a set of thicker fishing hooks.
When selecting a hook size, it’s also important to consider the style of the desired hook. Let’s overview three common hook styles – single hooks, treble hooks, and gang hooks – so that you understand what we mean.
Single hooks are very commonly used for trout fishing since they are effective enough, aren’t damaging to the fish, and usually, don’t have any state restrictions imposed on them.
When it comes to the sizing of single hooks, the rules described above apply. If the hooks are sized by the normal scale, then you go up the scale for smaller hooks and down the scale for larger hooks.
The above also applies to barbless hooks. If you didn’t know, barbless hooks are technically single hooks, but they don’t have the barb that helps to keep the fish on the hook. Barbless hooks are used in catch-and-release fishing.
If you are a beginner, we suggest that you avoid treble or gang hooks since proper sizing for them can be a little more difficult. Besides, single hooks work well in many cases, and there may not even be a need for you to go for a grabbier hook.
Then, there are treble hooks, which essentially are three single hooks that are branching from a single shank. These hooks are very effective at catching and holding trout, which may be a big advantage for some people. However, treble hooks are arguably overkilled, unless you’ve found that single hooks don’t work for you.
So what should you know about treble hooks when it comes to sizes?
Well, when indicating the size of treble hooks, manufacturers usually indicate the size of just one of the hooks, not all the hooks as a whole. Thus, a treble hook sized 12 isn’t the same as a single hook size 12.
Due to this, you will have to choose smaller treble hooks than you usually would. Since treble hooks have the same sizing rules as single hooks, this shouldn’t be too difficult for you.
Anglers usually use treble hooks sized 14 and 16, but you may go even smaller.
With treble hooks, avoiding overshooting the size is more important than undershooting it. Treble hooks can be very damaging to trout, which may not be appropriate for your fishing purposes. A too-small treble hook will be less effective, but it will also be less damaging, and it still is highly likely to trap the trout.
You also have ganged hooks which are composed of two hooks rather than three like in treble hooks.
What we’ve described with treble hooks also applies to ganged hooks, but to a lesser extent since you are dealing with just two hooks.
Ganged hooks are less damaging to the fish than treble hooks, but you should still be careful with them.
When it comes to sizing, sizes from 10-12 to 14 should work good enough for most people. Depending on the trout size though, you may go smaller or bigger.
So Which Hook Size To Go For?
By now, you should know everything you need to pick the right hook size for trout fishing. With that said, which hook size to go for exactly?
Well, who said that you have to go for just one hook? If you don’t have any fishing hooks at the moment, then you should purchase an entire set with various hook sizes!
Even if the trout in your area tends to be small, you should have a little bigger hooks with you just in case. The inverse case also applies – you should have small hooks for smaller fish as well.
Speaking of smaller fish, do remember to check local regulations to see whether there any size limits on trout in your area. These are very important to know if you don’t want to get into trouble.
As mentioned above, sizes from 8 to 14 generally work well with trout. This is the range that you should go for at least. Consider going for smaller and larger hooks as well for unusually sized trout.
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Don’t overthink it when looking for hook sizes. You can’t precisely know which hooks will work best for which trout. Just go ahead and try to catch some fish to understand roughly which sizes work the best for the trout in your area.
Do gather as much information as you can, but do keep in mind that you won’t know the right sizes exactly until you try out your hooks yourself!