Gaff a Fish
Although there are no percentage numbers to back it up, it is fair to say the majority of fish lost during an engagement are lost at the boat just prior to or during the landing, wiring, tagging or gaffing sequence.
As the wireman or angler brings the fish to the boat, the object is to "lead" the fish into position to be gaffed, therefore the term "leader." The best gaff shot is always from the head back to the shoulders, which helps to control the fish. As the old timers would say, "where his head goes, he goes." The best fish position for a good gaff shot is alongside the boat, where the fish is sideways and a broad target, not at the transom where the fish is facing you and provides a very slim target for the gaff.
Once the fish is in position for a gaff shot, the gaffman comes in behind and alongside the wireman or angler, not in front of him. This allows for the cleanest shot. If the fish surges ahead, the wireman can move with the fish and the gaff is not in the way of the leader or in danger of breaking it.
The gaff should always be held with the hook down, not up. By keeping the hook down, the gaff shot is made over the shoulder or body of the fish toward the boat. It also plants the gaff in the solid part of the fish, rather than coming from beneath where there is soft tissue.
- Capt. Karl Anderson, Fort Lauderdale, Florida