E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
He is off the hooks. Done for, laid on the shelf, superseded, dead. The bent pieces of iron on which the hinges of a gate rest and turn are called hooks; if a gate is off the hooks it is in a bad way, and cannot readily be opened and shut.
On ones own hook. On ones own responsibility or account. An anglers phrase.
To fish with a golden hook. To give bribes. Pêcher avec un hameçon dor. Risk a sprat to catch a mackerel. To buy fish, and pretend to have caught it.
With a hook at the end. My assent is given with a hook at the end means not intended to be kept. In some parts of Germany, even to the present day, when a witness swears falsely, he crooks one finger into a sort of hook, and this is supposed sufficient to avert the sin of perjury. It is a crooked oath, or an oath with a hook at the end. (See OVER THE LEFT.)
N.B. Ringing the bells backwards, and repeating the Lords Prayer backwards belong to the same class of superstitions.