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Mark's Mailbag - Circle Hooks on Crawler Harnesses

Mark's Mailbag are occasional posts to the blog in response to questions people submit on the Fishing 411 website.  Mark personally responds to the question and when relevant, we repost his answer here.  If you have a question you would like to ask Mark, please visit us at

On December 25, 2014, John writes:  "Hi Mark. Merry Christmas to you and your family. The last few years I've enjoyed making my own harnesses . Have you ever tried circle hooks so you don't hook the smaller ones so deep? If so what size ?"

Circle Hook
Mark replies:  Circle hooks are a great invention, but they are designed for targeting powerful fish like saltwater species and larger freshwater species including musky, catfish, stripers, etc. When these powerful fish bite the circle hook is set without having to physically jerk the rod. Circle hooks are most often used in combination with live or cut bait.

It seems obvious that using a circle hook would work well for certain live bait fishing applications like fishing crawler harnesses for walleye. Actually, I find that circle hooks do not function well for walleye live bait fishing applications.

Walleye routinely bite so light that they don’t get “hooked” on the initial strike. Walleye also have the unnerving habit of sucking in a bait, only to blow it back out almost instantly. When using traditional “beak” style live bait hooks that have an

Saginaw River Winter Walleye

By Mark Romanack

The entire length of the Saginaw River harbors
walleye opportunities during the winter months.
When the weather is cold ice fishing dominates
and when the weather turns mild don’t hesitate
to break out a small boat and some jigging rods.
The Saginaw River walleye fishery has come a long ways since fish were first introduced in the early 1980’s. As a resident of Saginaw at the time, I remember how amazed folks were to see crowds of anglers trying their luck for walleye on the frozen river. The spectacle made the evening news, the front page of local papers and became the buzz at every coffee shop in town. Keep in mind that just 10 years earlier the Saginaw River was considered too polluted to support fish life!

In fact, during the 60’s and 70’s the Saginaw River resisted freezing even in the coldest weather. Pollution was out of control, but thanks to the Clean Water Act, things were about to get better.

The decades of the 80’s and 90’s witnessed great improvements in both the water quality and the fishing opportunities. Two decades down the road from the first fish plants, the Saginaw Bay drainage system has grown into one of the most popular walleye fishing destinations in the Midwest. Many say that the combined fishing opportunities of Saginaw Bay, the Saginaw River and her many tributary streams rivals even mighty Lake Erie!

Fine Tuning Tip Ups

By Mark Romanack

Walleye can be taken effectively using tip ups like the
disk model shown here.
It’s hard to beat the feeling when something at the end of of a fishing line makes its presence known. A tug on the end of the line is great, but this sensation isn’t the only way to make the most of ice fishing. The time honored tip up is another excellent way to target a wealth of fish species including trout, walleye, pike and burbot. 

A tip up doesn’t reward anglers with a sharp rap they can feel, but the colorful flag that pops up when a bite occurs is just as satisfying. The simple words “flag up” are enough to warm the cold fingers and toes of any angler.

Great Lakes Yelow Bellies

By Mark Romanack

Tony Puccio of Bait Rigs Tackle is one of the author’s perchin’
buddies. These slabs were taken on Lake Erie in Ontario waters.
When I was a kid, the Great Lakes were known better for yellow perch than they were trout or salmon. I’m dating myself a little, but I can remember countless Friday night fish fries that featured yellow perch. I can also remember when the cost of a quality perch dinner was something Dad could afford to order for the whole family.

The days of the affordable perch dinner may be gone, but the Great Lakes continue to produce yellow bellies you can catch yourself.

An Early Winter Bluegill Strategy

By Mark Romanack

Slab gills like this one take five to seven years to grow this big. Even
the best lakes can get seriously hurt when anglers over harvest
these misunderstood fish.
Monster whitetail bucks aren’t found living everywhere. The same is true of bruiser bluegills. Seemingly every lake in Michigan has a population of bluegill, but only select waters routinely produce the kind of bluegill anglers can brag about catching.

The first question becomes, why are so many seemingly good panfish lakes jam packed with stunted bluegills? The answer lies in the balance between predator and prey. Not enough predators in a particular body of water allow bluegills to breed and expand their populations uncontrolled. As the bluegill population grows, serious stress is placed on the lake’s ability to supply enough food for all those bluegills.