Sharp hooks put more fish in the boat

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist March 15, 2013 11:29 pm

Curt Wood and Skip Owens from Havre, Montana, hold four of the eight lingcod they caught on Monday out of the Port of Brookings Harbor while fishing with Jim Bithell, owner of Charthouse Sportfishing. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Curt Wood and Skip Owens from Havre, Montana, hold four of the eight lingcod they caught on Monday out of the Port of Brookings Harbor while fishing with Jim Bithell, owner of Charthouse Sportfishing. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
Ding ding! Another lingcod just bit the dust. Every time one of Jim Bithell’s clients drops a horse herring to the bottom, it rings the dinner bell and the toothmeisters come a-runnin’. That’s how good the lingcod fishing has been. 

Bithell, owner of Charthouse Sport Fishing, has been limiting his clients out almost every day on lingcod that have been averaging between 8 and 12 pounds. He’s also been limiting out his clients on rockfish as well. 

Anglers have been catching their rockfish and lings on a variety of lures. My favorite is the leadfish, but people using shrimp flies and twin-tail rubber lures have also been getting their fair share of hookups as well.

For your best success, you definitely want to be on the water and fishing on the incoming tide, about two hours before high tide, fishing through high slack. It is a fish’s nature to eat the most robustly during this time period. At some point during this two-hour window, they’re going to snap, so your lure or bait better be in the water.

Also, anglers need to sharpen their hooks! A lot of people think that they don’t need to have a sharp hook in order to catch rockfish. Nothing is further from the truth.

Sharpen your hooks regularly and you’ll quickly find out that a lot of those missed strikes will turn into hookups. Every time you snag your lure on the bottom and get it back, those pin-sharp hook points turn into blunt, dull nails. They need to be re-sharpened again.

I have found that the standard hook-sharpening file wears out in less than a year, and often I have to buy several files a year because they quickly become rusty and worn out.

But lately, I’ve been using the 4-inch DMT Diafold knife sharpener to sharpen my hooks. It easily fits into my pocket and, with rounded edges, it doesn’t wear a hole your pocket like those pointed hook files do.

These faceted sharpeners are diamond-impregnated and really put a needle-sharp edge on your hooks in a hurry. They’re designed for sharpening knives, but I choose to use mine as a hook sharpener. 

If you have one of the larger models, think about keeping one on the boat to be used as a dedicated hook sharpener. Since these larger models have more than twice the length of the 4-inch versions, they cut more material faster than their smaller counterpart. But be careful when using these things because they will wear your hook surface away rapidly.

You don’t have to sharpen all sides of a hook in order for it to be needle sharp. Unless the hook is extremely dull, you only need to sharpen one side. Here’s how I sharpen my hooks using one of these devices.

Simply lay the hook point on one end of the sharpener with the hook point facing away from the direction you are going to move it. In one motion, draw the entire hook across the length of the sharpener. It usually only takes one swipe across the tool to sharpen your hook if you’re using the larger version. 

To see if the hook is sharp, grab the eye of the hook in between the thumb and finger of one hand, and try and drag the hook point across the surface of the thumbnail of the other hand. A sharp hook will not slide, but will immediately stick into your thumbnail.

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Redtail surfperch continue to thrill surf fishermen at places like the Nesika Beach rest stop. At this spot you will want to walk down the beach. Again, fishing on the incoming tide is critical. Use size 6 snelled hooks with a one-third inch piece of raw shrimp for bait or use the Gulp! 2-inch camo-colored Sand Worms.

Tight lines!