Anchor the Gaff Rope Amidships

Hook'em Hints & Tips 20 08 2015

There are a few, very simple reasons to anchor the flying gaff rope in the amidships region of the boat, rather than on a stern cleat.  These reasons are as follows:-

  1. It allows the angler and crew to visually check whether the fish is ready for the gaff or not.  From the stern, especially if the motor is running, it is difficult to observe the true nature of the fish.  From the side of the boat, it is usually much easier to observe the fish and estimate what it is likely to do, once gaffed.

  2. It encourages the crew or angler to set the gaff at the side of the boat, rather than at the stern, thereby reducing the likelihood of spooking the fish with the pressure wave.

  3. It allows the pivot point to be centrally located in the middle of the boat, so that if the fish takes off, there is a  consistent length of rope to take it around the boat.

Often the main reasons for fish suddenly exploding out of the water, when gaffed are:

  • They are not ready to be gaffed and still have considerable energy in reserve.

  • They are spooked by the pressure waves and react accordingly or are taken too high on the body, whilst still green and fight to retain their upright position in the water.

  • When the fish takes off, the length of gaff rope is too short to allow the fish to have a clear path of travel around the boat.

The last reason is often the main cause of the fish exploding out of the water and onto the boat.  The energy of the panicked fish is redirected into an arc, so that the fish swings around at the end of the rope, with the anchor point of the gaff rope, becoming the pivot point.  At the end of the rope, the energy of the fish forces it to take a circular direction around the pivot point, where the gaff rope is tied.  With large and powerful fish trying to escape, the massive energy and the short rope assists the fish to explode out of the water and follow the arc around the pivot point.  However, once the fish has broken the surface of the water, the arc will take the fish over the boat.

Additional force from the angler or crew to hold on or pull the fish back to the boat, can simply reduce the length of swing available to the fish.  This action can and often does increase the likelihood of the angry fish arcing out of the water and over the boat.

Mistakes happen and every angler will at some time gaff a very green fish.  The fish will react with a sudden surge of power and speed and if the gaff rope is too short to allow it to move around and away from the boat, the fish can only swing around in a circle, from the pivot point, where the rope is anchored.

The key to success is to anchor the gaff rope in the amidships area of the boat, so that if a fish suddenly takes off at the gaff, there is ample clearance (length of rope) to take the fish completely around the boat.  Instead of shortening the rope and forcing the arc to be directed over the boat, the fish can be allowed to swing completely around the boat without risking life and limb.  When the fish uses up its reserves of energy and tires, it can then be safely brought to the boat and tied off.

GAFFS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS TOOLS USED IN FISHING.  

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EVERY USER TO TAKE A SAFE AND CONTROLLED APPROACH TO GAFFING FISH AND BRINGING THEM ON BOARD ANY VESSEL OR FISHING PLATFORM.

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