How do I use a gaff?

What is a gaff?

A gaff or hook is a tool used to stab large fish so you can lift them into a boat. The gaff consists of a pole with a sharp hook mounted on the end of it. Gaffs are used in game fishing when the size of the fish could exceed the breaking point of the line or pole. A flying gaff is a slight modification with a detachable hook. When force is applied, the hook dislodges from the pole somewhat like the dart of a harpoon. It is then secured to the boat with a cable or very heavy rope. Gaffing a fish correctly takes a lot of practice and concentration. It is usually a team effort and requires a great deal of strategy. The gaffer’s main responsibility is to control the fish while preserving as much of the meat as possible. It’s up to the fisherman to get the fish tired enough to bring in and to lead it into the gaffing area. Unless there’s a possibility that the fish will slip the hook, it’s much easier to gaff a fish that is exhausted than one who is brought in to the boat prematurely. During this process, it’s important to keep the boat moving slowly forward to keep the line tight and to keep the fish swimming with the boat. One the fish in within range, it’s important that the gaffer takes time to familiarize himself with the way the fish is moving. The goal is to plant the gaff in a place that offers the most control over the fish. If you can plant the gaff in the shoulder, you will be able to lift the fish’s head from the water.

Daniel Eggertsen
Dan Eggertsen is a fellow saltwater fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on saltwater fishing since 2004.

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