NMFS released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Amendment 5b to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan in mid- February, 2017. A new Preferred Alternative (A6d) “requires the use of non-stainless steel circle hooks by all HMS permit holders with a shark endorsement when fishing for sharks recreationally south of 41 degrees 43’ latitude, except when fishing with flies or artificial lures.”
In other words, if fishing for sharks with flies or artificial lures, circle hooks are not required. But if you are fishing for sharks you must obtain a Shark Endorsement.
If you do not want to use circle hooks all the time and you are NOT targeting sharks, DO NOT check the Shark Endorsement box when renewing your annual HMS Angling Vessel Permit or HMS Charter/Headboat Permit. If you land sharks, you are assumed to be targeting sharks and need the Shark Endorsement and are required to use circle hooks unless fishing with flies or artificial lures.