Whether red hooks catch more fish is one of the most debated questions among anglers. It’s a question that often pops up when fishermen and fisherwomen are discussing how to increase their catch rate with the huge range of tools and tackle available.
Hooks, for instance, come in a wide array of types, shapes, sizes, colors, and price points. And for amateurs who can’t tell the difference between an octopus hook and a siwash hook or know how to pick the right hook size, things can get pretty confusing fast.
In this article, we're going to dive deep into the red fishing hook debate and why they supposedly catch more fish or not.
Fish have eyes that work much like ours. Like us, they have a cornea, iris, lens, and retina. They see when reflected light enters the eye, passes through the pupil, and is focused on the retina, where cells turn the light into electrical impulses that then get sent to the brain.
Most of them have cone cells in their eyes (specifically in the retina), which gives them the ability to see color. Some of them, like the goldfish, are even wired to see more colors than we do. Goldfish don’t only have red, blue, and green cone cells but also ultraviolet ones, which suggests they have color-sensing capabilities even we humans don’t have.
Many fish that live in shallow waters typically use this color vision to their advantage. This means we anglers probably should also take color into account when choosing the color of our lures or hooks. A red hook might prove irresistible to fish in these shallower waters, especially when the water is very clear.
Some say the red color makes the bait look like it’s bleeding, which many fish will find hard to say no to. Also, most live bait, like worms or leeches, is grey or brown, so without the bright red hook, the bait may be hard to see, especially in murky water on cloudy days.
In greater depths where there is less light, fish rely more on another type of cell, the rod cells, to look for food and watch out for predators. Rod cells detect whether an object is light or dark against the environment. In this case, we probably don’t have to be as picky in our hook color choices, but think more about contrast and movement when fishing in deeper waters.
Shiny hooks? Dark hooks? Red hooks?
It’s often suggested to use a shiny silver or gold hook, which catches the light nicely, to get fish to nibble on the bait or lure in deeper waters, and especially if the water is quite murky.
For fish that are easily spooked, on the other hand, a dark hook in black or blue is recommended. The dark hook blends with the dark water and makes the bait or lure stand out more, attracting the fish.
Some say that in these deeper waters, a red hook will appear dark, almost black. So it probably leads to more catches not because of its specific red color but because it leans darker in the color spectrum and thus blends more with the environment, like how a blue or black hook would.
Try it for yourself!
Remember, however, that these are just broad generalizations. Anyone who has gone fishing before will probably know that there are way too many factors that play into fishing: the weather, season, water clarity, the temperature, the season, the tides, etc. What may work like a charm one day can leave you skunked the next. There are certainly many anglers who swear by red hooks, and others who shrug it off as just a myth. If you haven’t tried a red hook or considered that hook color can make a difference in your fishing success, it may be worth trying it out. You may be in for a sweet surprise!
Meanwhile, don't miss our other posts on popular fishing questions: Does talking scare fish?, Do fish not bite in the rain? How do I remove hooks safely? And don’t forget to check out the for more fishing tips, tricks and updates! Fish on!