Yesterday I mentioned that stainless steel hooks should be avoided for the sake of the fish. After spending the day pondering the issue, I felt this point needed some more clarification.
It's true that stainless steel hooks don't dissolve as well under water (compared to other hooks) - and this can make it harder on the fish when you have to release him with a deeply embedded hook left in him.
So why do so many anglers still like prefer stainless steel hooks?
The answer is strength. Stainless steel hooks are stronger than hooks made of other metals - which means they're less likely to break. Steelheaders and other trophy trout anglers need fish hooks they can rely on. Last thing they want is to lose their trophy catch because of a broken hook. Stainless steel hooks give them this extra assurance.
It should also be noted that these anglers are using large single hooks (as opposed to treble hooks). Single hooks are easier to remove and cause less stress on the fish. So these anglers are already exercising some good practices in protecting the fish from undue harm. Chances that these hooks would be deeply embedded enough to pose a problem is unlikely. So in this kind of fishing situation, using a stainless steel hook is best for the angler - while not really harming the fish.
But for trout anglers fishing lakes and streams tend to catch much smaller trout. Many of these anglers are also using small treble hooks. These hooks are notorious for getting stuck in such a way that often poses problems for removal. In this type of fishing situation, using a stainless steel hook is not a good idea.
These trout are smaller anyway. It's very unlikely your fish hook will break during the fight. So there's no real need to for the added strength of a stainless steel hook. Using a hook that is more environmentally friendly would be better for the fish in this kind of fishing situation.
The bottom line is that you have to consider your fishing situation when determining if a stainless steel fish hook is a good idea or bad. When fishing for trophy size trout (like steelheads), stainless steel hooks are a good choice. But for ordinary trout fishing that requires smaller hooks, stainless steel hooks should be avoided.