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Get the Right Gaff!

 

Get the Right Gaff!

By Capt. Gus Cane

Nets work well for handling smaller inshore species, but for big, powerful adversaries gaffs are the preferred tool for landing fish. There are several sizes, lengths and even styles of gaffs though, so getting the right one is important.

Gaffs handles are usually made of aluminum or fiberglass. The hook end of the shaft is often tapered for less resistance in the water. The butt end is thicker for extra strength and has a plastic or EVA foam grip for better retention with wet hands. The hook itself is stainless steel of various gauges depending on the size and type. A rounded bend hook is the most popular, although diamond-shaped hooks are becoming more common. When considering shaft lengths, take into account the height of the boat’s gunwales above the waterline. Shorter lengths offer better control, while longer ones reduce the reach. Storage aboard the boat when the gaff is not in use is another consideration before purchasing.

For smaller sized fish like schoolie kingfish or dolphin, a 2-inch hook on a 4- to 6-foot shaft gaff is a good choice. The hook’s gape or the distance between the hook point and shaft or handle should match the approximate depth of the fish’s body being landed. The smaller the gauge of hook, the easier it will penetrate. A 3-inch gaff will handle fish up to 50 pounds or so, while a 4-inch gaff is designed for big broad fish like tuna and sharks up to 250 pounds. Keep in mind more than one gaff may be needed to swing fish of that size aboard.

Specialty Gaffs are designed for specific purposes. Tournament king mackerel anglers prefer 12-foot long 3-inch gaffs to make sure “smokers” don’t get away. Flying gaffs are heavy-duty versions with large gape hooks that detach from the handle. A rope is tied to a reinforced cleat on the boat, and once the fish is gaffed, the hook pulls free, yet the rope keeps the trophy tethered. Flying gaffs are mostly used for marlin, tuna and large pelagic sharks like makos or threshers.

Gaffing requires timing, steady nerves and lots of practice. Veteran gaff men make sure the hook point is facing down and towards the boat as the fish is brought alongside to avoid breaking the line. It’s best to aim the hook point towards the head for better control and not ruin the meat. After the fish is gaffed, the angler should back off the reel drag or switch to the clicker mechanism to prevent line overruns if the fish takes off again. Communication between the angler and the gaff man is critical too. The angler shouldn’t pull the fish’s head out of the water, while the gaffer must wait patiently for a clean shot. With the proper timing and deft moves, even the largest prey can be gaffed, subdued and brought safely aboard.

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Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com

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