Every angler has lost a fishing hook now and again. Whether it was caught in a fish’s mouth and the fish escaped, or the line came untied, somehow, the fishing hook has gone missing when you check the line. Now that it’s gone, what will happen to it? Will it eventually dissolve in water?
Yes, fish hooks typically take a few months up to 50 years to dissolve in water. The exact amount of time depends on:
- Type of water,
- Hook’s age and amount of use,
- Protective metallic coatings applied to the hook.
Losing your fishing hook is annoying, but it happens to the best of us.
Depending on where you’re fishing and the type of hook you used, the amount of time it takes for the hook to fully disintegrates will vary. But fishing hooks aren’t made to corrode quickly in water.
If they were, they wouldn’t make for good hooks!
Protective Coatings For Hooks
One major factor in determining how long your fishing hook will take to dissolve in water is what coating your hook had.
There are five main types of coatings commonly found on fishing hooks. Each one reacts differently when a hook has been lost.
Hooks are usually made of wire or stainless steel, but you can get special coatings for your hooks to improve their durability.
Bronze coatings are best for fishing hooks that you intend to use in freshwater. Although a bronze coating doesn’t offer too much protection for your fishing hook, it’s the cheapest type of coating, perfect for anglers on a budget.
A soft metal similar to bronze, a gold coating is more expensive than bronze but doesn’t offer much more protection. However, the shiny gold colour appeals to many fish species, and some anglers enjoy the extra incentive for fish to bite that a gold coating offers.
Nickel is also recommended for freshwater fishing because it doesn’t offer enough protection to stand up to the saltwater’s corrosive qualities. Nickel is more economical than gold and just as shiny, making your fishing hook enticing for the fish.
Another popular finish for fish hooks, black coatings are slightly more durable than the previously listed coatings. A coloured hook is a thin lacquer that coats the fishing hook. The varnish creates a light shield that protects the hook from the normal wear and tear of fishing.
The most durable of all of the coatings listed here, the tin coating is recommended for saltwater anglers. Tin offers a very high level of protection against corrosion. If your fishing hooks are coated with tin, they will likely take multiple years to fully dissolve in water, especially if you’ve lost your hook in freshwater.
What Does The Research Say?
There has been little research on the topic of corrosion rates for fishing hooks available to the public.
Many fishing hook manufacturers tend to keep their information close to their chest to give them a competitive advantage against the competition.
However, a paper was published in 2010 called “Corrosion Resistance of Fishing Hooks with Different Surface Coatings.“
In this study, they compared tin and blue-coated fish hooks and exposed them to a salt spray. A salt spray is a laboratory method for determining the corrosion allowance of materials by creating a highly corrosive salt environment.
After 300 hours of exposure to the salt spray, here is what happened to the hooks:
|Salt Spray Exposure||Tin Coated Hook|
|Blue Coated Hook |
300 hours of salt spray exposure is equivalent to 3 years in the ocean. By interpreting the information of the study, it would take:
- 50 years for the tin-coated hook to completely corrode away in the ocean.
- 14 years for the blue-coated hook to completely corrode away in the ocean.
This is assuming that the hooks have never been used and not damaged. But in real life, there are so many variables that can affect the corrosion rate.
Other Corrosion Factors For Hooks
Your fishing hook’s protective coating is only one of the factors involved in determining how quickly your hook will dissolve.
Other aspects include the age of your hook, the type of water you lost it in, the strength of the water’s currents, and the terrain of the bottom of the water body.
- Type Of Water
Saltwater is much more corrosive than freshwater, so if you lose a hook in the ocean, it will dissolve much faster than if you lost it in a river or lake.
Saltwater is more corrosive because salt is abrasive. The tiny grains will rub against the hook, stripping it of any protective coating and degrading the metal entirely after some time.
- Age Of The Hook
General wear and tear on your fishing hook can also affect its lifespan.
A new hook will always be more durable than a hook you have been using for a while. A used hook will likely have some damage to its protective coating. This is especially true with bronze and gold coatings because the metal is so soft.
- Current Strength
If you lose your fishing hook in a river, the strength of the current and the river bed plays an essential role in degrading the hook.
A strong current will cause the hook to hit sharp rocks, which will chip off the protective coating, no matter what metal you used.
How To Avoid Losing Hooks
There will be plenty of times where you will lose a hook and there will be nothing you can do about it.
That being said, there are things you can do to help minimize the chances of losing your hooks.
- Use High-Quality Hooks
Your best plan is to use high-quality hooks.
Once your hooks have started to rust or have gotten bent, it is probably time to retire them. A rusted or bent hook is more likely to get snagged and break off from your line.
- Inspect Your Leader Line
Inspect your leader to make sure that your line and swivels are in good condition.
The leader line can take a bit of punishment, rubbing against the rocks and other structures underwater, causing the line to become weak. If not checked regularly, you could lose a hook because the line snapped on you instead of the hook breaking.
- Check Your Hooks
You should frequently check your hooks to make sure they are correctly tied onto the line. If you need to, retie the hooks on to keep them completely safe and secure.
It’s always better to be overcautious than risk losing the hook because it wasn’t tied on well enough. You’ll save money if you aren’t continually replacing your fishing hooks.
- Don’t Cut Snagged Line
Another suggestion is that if your line gets snagged or tangled, don’t just cut it and leave it behind.
If possible, you should always try to get unsnagged or untangle your line. Even if you have to cut it off, you shouldn’t leave it lying around where fish and other animals could get caught up in it. You want to keep your waters clean for everyone’s sake and the animals.
It’s frustrating to lose your fishing hook in the middle of a nice day, but you can rest easy knowing that it will eventually dissolve.
However, preventing the hook from coming off and collecting any tangled lines or other debris is the best way to keep the waters clean and the fish healthy.
After all, the water belongs to everyone, so hold on to your hooks.
Happy Fishing and Tight Lines!