How to Gaff Fish
Bob McNally 06.30.16
Employed correctly, gaffs make for quick, easy fish landing. But when gaffs are mishandled, they become instruments of piscatorial nightmares, often resulting in lost or injured fish.
The following tips should help your gaffing.
Gaffing to Keep:
The basics of gaffing are similar to netting fish. The gaff man stands ahead of the fish and angler, so the fisherman sees the gaffing process and can counter any last-ditch fight a fish makes.
For most fish, a gaff should strike deep into the back muscle under the dorsal fin. For some species that have scales like chain-mail armor, gaffing under a gill cover is more sure.
Best technique is to hit a fish with a quick, fluid gaff motion that swings it up-and-over the gunnel and promptly into a fish box. Done the right way, a fish has no chance to spook and is laying on ice before it realizes it’s out of the water.
Gaffing to Release:
Gaffing into the thin, fleshy part of the lower jaw is best for fish to be released. For large fish, a gaff can be used to “pin” a fish by its lower jaw to boatside while hooks are removed. Then the fish is gently lowered back into the water, allowed to revive, and the gaff hook is carefully removed from its jaw.