USING A GAFFHow To Land Big Fish
The correct use of a gaff to land a big fish is something of a dying art (pardon the pun), especially in this age of increasing emphasis on catch-and-release. But there are still times when reaching for the gaff is the best option available…
Keep the gaff strictly for those fish you intend to kill, take home and eat. Gaffs are NOT release tools!
Gaffs are traditionally used to secure larger, more active fish, especially heavyweight targets such as tuna, mulloway (jewfish), Spanish mackerel, kingfish, sharks and marlin, although they can also be useful on very large snapper, emperor and so on.
Gaffing is a little trickier than netting and requires a bit more practice to master. Unfortunately, most anglers don’t have the opportunity to catch large fish very often, so practice can be hard to come by. Therefore, being really clear on the steps you need to take to successfully gaff a fish before the moment of truth arrives is very important.
Let me stress once again: before even thinking about using a gaff, consider whether you want to keep or release the fish, because gaffing usually kills or badly injures the fish. Also, gaffs are not permitted by law in some areas or specific fisheries (particularly in some freshwater environments), so always check the rules first.
Just before the fish breaks the surface, place the gaff handle over the fish’s back, behind its head, with the hook facing down.
- Just before the fish breaks the surface, place the gaff handle over the fish’s back, behind its head, with the hook facing down.
- Pull back and up smoothly on the gaff handle, using the weight and resistance of the fish itself to bury the hook into its flesh. (Heavier fish are generally easier to gaff than lighter ones.)
- Smoothly continue the hook-setting stroke to lift the fish from the water and into the boat or up onto the rocks or pier.
Always try your best to think coolly and act smoothly when wielding a gaff.
As when dealing with every other aspect of hooking, playing and landing a fish, you need to try your best to think coolly and act smoothly when wielding a gaff. Although staying calm isn’t always easy with copious amounts of adrenalin pumping through your body, keeping a lid on your emotions more often brings rewards. The time to go wild and start jumping up and down with unbridled excitement is after you landed that fish-of-a-lifetime or a record-breaking catch!