Hook sizes for 13 surf fishing species: Quick answers!

This article looks at 12 popular saltwater surf fishing species, and the right size and type of hook for each species. 

This is based on experience and expert advice from multiple anglers. 

Jump to summary table at the bottom to find the right hook size you need. 

The species list includes the following…

Click here for the 12 best surf fishing rigs: what they are, how to make them, how to use them.

Hook sizes for surf fishing

Pick a top surf reel from our best-of list right here.

What size hook for whiting?

The best size hook for whiting is a 2/0 long shank hook for larger worm bait presentation. This helps to attract larger whiting because you can fit larger bait on the hook.

Whiting have particularly small mouths so it’s important to choose the right size hook for whiting so that you don’t miss out on successful strikes. 

A hook that’s too large will spook the whiting before it has a chance to get hooked.

However, anglers often choose very small hook sizes for whiting because they are afraid of not hooking up. 

And this means that they can only fit a small amount of bait on their whiting hook. 

A small amount of bait on a hook for whiting means you’ll probably only attract smaller whiting to strike.

If you want to target larger whiting, then I’d recommend increasing the size of the hook for whiting to a 2/0 long shank hook.

With a 2/0 long shank hook you can present a much larger worm bait to attract larger whiting to strike, whilst not preventing standard sized whiting from biting too. 

And you also might trigger other larger surf species to strike too. 

So if you want to increase your chances of catching larger whiting, while still being able to target the larger pool of standard-sized whiting, choose a 2/0 size long shank hook for whiting.

What size hook for surf perch?  

Surf perch are a really fantastic species to target as they can be right up close to the beach, and they are everywhere, probably one of the most available fish in the surf up and down the west coast. 

You can use multiple baits for surf perch, so let’s have a look at what hook size for surf perch. 

Use a #2 – #4 size baitholder hook if using worms to catch surf perch. This will hold the worm better and increase successful hookups. An alternative is a #2 size circle hook, because they create automatic hook ups without the need to strike, plus it holds sandworms well too, a popular bait for surf perch. 

What size hook for pompano?

Pompano could be one of the most popular fish to target across the US coast line. 

But they can be difficult to hook up sometimes, if you don’t have the right hook size. Let’s have a look at the right hook size for pompano shared from the experiences of seasoned pompano anglers. 

Pompano have small mouths, so smaller-sized, thinner, lighter hooks are reported to work best. Size 1/0 or 2/0 circle hooks are the most popular size, and Mutu Light hooks are said to perform exceptionally well for hooking pompano. 

Another top tip for hooking up pompano when bait fishing is to use a rod with a very flexible tip. 

Highly experienced anglers we came across in our research suggested fiberglass rods vs graphite rods are best for pompano, because the glass provides additional flexibility to help the hook set properly. 

What size hook for mullet?

If you hook up a good sized mullet on light gear you’ll know about it. Mullet can be an easy fish to find, and a fun one to battle. 

But you need precisely the right gear for this fish. Mullet have very soft, small mouths, which can easily be damaged and release a hook if it is not the right size nor used with the right gear – so make sure you are using the appropriate size hook for this fish.

The size of the hook you choose depends on the size of mullet you are targeting. 

For smaller mullet use a hook size #2 – #4, and for larger mullet use a size #1 hook. If the hook is too large mullet won’t be able to consume it, and if the hook is too small you won’t be able to fit enough bait on. Sometimes all you need for bait is a small bread ball to catch large mullet though. 

What size hook for mackerel?

Many anglers make the mistake of going too large with the hook size on their sabikis.

But lucky for you, we’ve done the research and have the information to help you hook up more mackerel.

You have to remember that mackerel tend to feed on very small bait fish, often bait in the larval stage of fish development. 

So they do not need huge great big sabiki rigs to catch them, smaller is often better here. 

I’ve often opted for smaller sabikis fishing for mackerel from harbour walls, and they can be deadly. 

Use sabiki rigs with size 6 hooks, with a shiny speed jig at the end. Either the bait catcher, shrimp rigs, fish skin or feather rigs work well. Take a selection with you, but make sure the hook is size 6 on the rig. Mackerel often feed on small larval fish so smaller hook sizes can be more effective. 

What size hook for flounder?

When fishing for flounder, there seem to be two go-to options for seasoned flounder anglers out there. 

Live or cut bait and soft plastics like the ones sold by Gulp! seem to be getting the greatest use from saltwater fishermen out there, and we’ll cover both when recommending what size hook for flounder. 

For catching flounder with live or cut bait use #3 – 3/0 hooks, match the size of hook to the bait size. For large baits, like 6” mullet then use a 7/0 hook. Small bait like live shrimp then #3 size hook. Soft plastics with hooks in 3/0-5/0 range, using medium to large grub plastic baits also work well for flounder.  

The jury is out on whether circle hooks work well for flounder. 

Some anglers use them but flounder mouths are a different shape to other fish, so there are people that will steer clear of them because they don’t find they hook up in the same way. 

You might want to test out circle vs J or Kahle hooks and see which shape works best for hook-ups. 

Kahle hooks are like a semi-circle shape and are very popular with flounder anglers because the shape seems to set effectively in their mouths.

Size 3/0 – 5/0 Kahle hooks tipped with a strip of squid is reportedly deadly for luring in flounder to strike.

What size hook for sea bass?

Sea bass is a prized eating fish, with exquisite, pure and firm white flesh. 

They are also good fun to fish for because they are predatory fish that put up a good fight when caught, and have huge mouths for swallowing prey and bait.

If you want to have a high hook up rate when targeting sea bass, then deciding what size hook for sea bass, and how to rig the hooks is very important. 

Use a size 1/0-3/0 Octopus or Eagle Claw hook for smaller bass and size 6/0 hooks for larger sea bass. Circle hooks are difficult to remove from sea bass mouths. To increase hook-ups snell the hook to the line, adjusting the hook’s angle when the fish strikes. An alternative to snelled hooks is dropper loop rigs. 

In terms of making your rig for sea bass, use a heavy mono line, like 50-80lb which you tie two surgeon’s knots into each end to attach one end to your mainline and one end to your weight. 

An inline sinker around the 8oz mark should work well for this rig and application. 

Bait up your hook or hooks with a big chunk of albacore, bluefish or mackerel and jig it off the bottom for maximum results. The fish often strike as the bait if falling back down.

What size hook for seatrout?

The spotted seatrout is a beautiful fish with striking spots right a long it’s body. 

Along with redfish, its a popular target for anglers all across the east coast and Gulf of Mexico. 

With this popularity comes a wealth of experience that we can learn from. Thousands of seasoned anglers target the seatrout every year, and our extensive research covers the best tackle to use, especially the right hook size for catching more seatrout.

Use either a #1-#4 size Kahle hook, or a #3-#4 size treble hook for seat trout. Bait the hook with live mullet, croakers or live / dead shrimp. Freelining the bait or using a poping cork to float the bait seems to be the most popular choice.

If you stay within this range of hook size, you should be able to handle any sea trout (or even a red fish) up to the 15-20lb mark. 

The hook should be able to withstand the pressure of the fight, and this size hook will fit the appropriate size of bait you need to use for sea trout. 

The great thing about Kahle hooks too, is that you often don’t need pliers or degorgers to remove the hooks. This can be done by hand and you can continue on fishing. 

What size hook for striped bass?

Striped bass are one of those poster-fish that so many anglers aspire to land. 

They are easily found and can be found in a variety of locations. They might be out on the sandbars chasing down their prey, and even sometimes you’ll spot large stripers right up close to shore scoping out their prey. 

Stripers vary in size a great deal, so choosing the right hook size to catch striped bass is important to get right. Let’s have a look at what hook size works best for striper anglers.

Use size 4/0 size thin wire circle hooks for smaller-medium striped bass, and up to 8/0-10/0 size circle hooks for large bass using larger bait. Match the size of the hook to the bait. Always make sure the point of the hook is exposed and gap of the bend is open to maximize hook ups.

If you bait your circle hook up correctly then stripers tend to hook themselves up on circle hooks – you just have to cast the bait, sit the rod in the holder, set the drag and wait for the bait to be swept up. 

A tip with circle hooks is that they differ in size among brands, so worth comparing them in person at your local tackle store, or purchasing a few packs to check. 

Experienced anglers out there recommend using fluorocarbon line for your leaders because it again increases your chances of a hook up. Fluorocarbon tends to be less visible to fish, which might explain this.

If you want to catch large striped bass using big chunks of bait to exclude the smaller fish from biting, then using bunker chunks on size 10/0 to even as big as 13/0 size hooks is best for holding larger baits. 

Snelling your hooks is also an important thing to consider learning to do and applying it to tying your hooks. The snell knot pulls the hook in a favorable direction towards the fish’s mouth when it is pulled away from the line by the striking fish. 

This means the hook is in a better position to get a clean and effective hook up without effort from the angler in striking. 

Top baits for striped bass include: 

  • Worms – blood worms or sandworms (smaller fish)
  • Live shrimp (smaller-medium fish)
  • Bunker / Menhaden strips (smaller fish)
  • Bunker / Menhaden chunks or heads (larger fish)
  • Whole Bunker / Menhaden (very large fsh)
  • Mackerel / Sardines / Anchovies strips (smaller fish)
  • Mackerel / Sardines / Anchovies or heads (larger fish)
  • Whole large Mackerel (very large fsh)

What size hook for sheepshead?

Sheepshead fish are reportedly a delicious eating fish. 

I’ve never tried it myself but the descriptions make it sound tasty! 

Sheepshead can reach a decent size too, making them a great sport fishing target for recreational and more experienced anglers alike. 

Sheepshead fish have very peculiar mouths though, almost human-like with teeth resembling molars that are used for crushing their crustacean prey! 

So choosing what size hook to catch sheepshead needs some thought. Let’s see what our research revealed.

Use size #1 hooks for sheepshead. Thicker hooks hold bait better than thin circle hooks. There are three popular rigs for catching sheepshead; free lining with a small splitshot weight and size #1 live bait hooks; a sized #1 sheepshead rig; or a ½ oz size 1/0 bottom sweeper rig. Bait with live fiddler crab or shrimp.

Bottom sweeper rigs are becoming an incredibly popular rig for targeting sheepshead. The design means that wherever the rig lands, it always lands with the hook facing upwards. 

This is important because sheepshead bite their crustacean prey off of surfaces like the ocean floor or rocks. 

So if you have a live crab or shrimp baited on the bottom sweeper rig, the bait will be presented right up to the sheepshead mouth, making hook-ups easy and consistent. 

If you tie a loop knot connecting your line to the bottom sweeper rig too, it will give the live bait even more freedom to move around and tempt in a strike from a sheepshead. 

Sheepshead rigs aim to do a similar thing, with a free moving hook attached to the body of the rig. 

However, this movement can often mean that the hook gets caught at the back of the rig, or caught around the line when it lands in the water.

What size hook for bluefish?

Bluefish are extremely aggressive predators for their size and have sharp teeth that can cut through fishing line pretty easily. 

Choosing the right size hook can lead to more successful hook-ups for bluefish, and avoid the fish shredding through your line. 

Let’s have a look at the recommended size hook for bluefish. 

Use a hook between a 5/0 and 7/0 size for bluefish. The larger hook size tends to work better when using chunks of bait, and has less chance of being completely swallowed by the fish. Circle or J hooks both work well, and you should use wire or heavy mono leader to prevent the bluefish from biting through. 

Bluefish bite-offs and breaks tend to be caused by the fish’s teeth shearing against the line.

If you’re using a light mono or braid then it’s possible the bluefish will damage the line when striking. Opt for a wire leader or heavier mono to withstand their sharp teeth.

Choosing the right hook that sets quickly can help here, for example, circle hooks because of their shape and design.

But the real protection comes from a stronger leader. 

Want to know how to catch bluefish from the pier or surf? Click here for full guide.

What size hook for Redfish (Red Drum)?

The best size hook size for redfish is typically between a 4/0-6/0 hook. Circle hooks ensure more redfish get hooked, some say you can’t lose a redfish on a circle hook. If you are using larger cut bait then use a size 7/0 circle hook. Popular brands are Gamakatsu and Owner. Kahle hooks also work well for redfish.

Redfish are hugely popular to target as a species. They are great fighters and often easy to sight-fish if you choose the right areas. Picking the right size hook for redfish is crucial.

The fun thing about redfish is you can use multiple tactics: lures, baits, jigs; to trigger powerful strikes from this fish.

If you want to use smaller live bait, like live shrimp, then it can pay to use a smaller hook for redfish. Something like a #4 Kahle hook will allow the shrimp to still swim and move around in the water to tempt those bull-reds into a feeding frenzy.

When using cut bait, make sure you have a good proportion of the hook sticking outside of the bait – don’t cover it too much, you’ll decrease hookups if the hook isn’t showing.

Want to know how to catch redfish from the pier or surf? Click here for full guide.

What size hook for black drum?

Black Drum can reach a wide range of sizes with some of the bull black drum reaching 30-40lbs, even 80lb records have been caught!

So picking the right hook size for black drum is important.

Use a size 6/0 – 8/0 circle hook for black drum for automatic hookups. Black drum swim around deep structure, so use a 50lb fluorocarbon leader with 50-80lb braid for the larger black drum. Use a 6oz-12oz sinker, go heavy for strong currents. 

What size hook for surf fishing? Summary table

SpeciesSuggested hook size
Whiting2/0 long shank
Surf perch#2-#4 baitholder or circle
Pompano1/0-2/0 circle
Mullet#2-#4 circle
MackerelSize 6 sabiki rigs
FlounderCut bait – #3-3/0Large bait – 7/0Plastics 3/0-5/0
Sea Bass1/0-3/0 Octopus / Eagle Claw
Sea Trout#1-#4 Kahle#3-#4 treble hook
Striped Bass4/0 – small-med bass8/0-10/0 large bass
Sheepshead#1 live bait or sheepshead rig
Bluefish5/0 – 7/0 circle
Redfish (Red Drum)4/0-6/0 circle. #4 Kahle for small live shrimp.
Black Drum6/0-8/0 circle

What size hook for surf fishing? Summary

What size hook to use for surf fishing is a question I often asked myself, and I’m not always sure I’m selecting the right one for the species I want to catch.

Do you ever have that problem? 

There is such a huge variety of hook sizes for surf fishing, and also multiple different species that can be caught from the shore that might require different hook sizes to catch them effectively and without harm. 

Many anglers out there might suggest one general hook size for surf fishing. 

For example, if you look online, many suggest a 1/0-2/0 hook ‘for most species’. 

And when I’m feeling lazy, I’ll sometimes revert to a general hook size like this, choosing one or two to take with me to the beach. 

But these ‘lazy’ days are often the days I catch the least fish, or the least variety of fish.

Which still leaves me with the unanswered question of ‘what size hook for surf fishing?’.

I believe that if you want the best results as a beginner in surf fishing, you should try to follow best-practice advice. Which means picking the right hook for your surf fishing trip.

That’s why I created the above list of the right hook sizes for 12 surf fishing species, to act as a go-to resource for anyone needing to pick the right hook for the type of fish they want to catch.

Hope it helps!