can also expect to lose a portion of the
fish’s meat to the wound a gaff creates.
And then there’s always the possibility of
accidentally gaffing yourself, or a buddy.
Don’t laugh, it’s happened plenty of times
– and I have the scars to prove it.
■ The best place to gaff a fish is in its
back, just aft of the gill plate.
■ Keep the gaff all the way out of the
water until you’re ready to strike, then
swing it with one smooth motion.
■ Follow through on the swing, just as
you would when swinging a golf club.
Unless the fish weighs hundreds of
pounds and will take several people
to hoist it aboard, the follow-through
should also serve as the beginning of
the lifting motion that brings the fish
over the gunwale.
Netting Your Catch
Netting is one of the most common ways
of landing fish, and for good reason. It’s
the safest and neatest way to get a fish
into your boat. It’s easy to master and can
be done by a novice. But most people use
a net simply because it’s the least-risky
method of landing a fish; once that crit-
ter is inside the mesh, it’s almost certainly
headed for the dinner plate.
There are, however, a few drawbacks
to netting. For starters, you have to buy
and carry a net. You also have to reach
for it, which can be difficult when fishing
alone. And with big fish doing their best
to avoid being netted, it really becomes a
■ Always net the fish headfirst. If you try
to net from the tail end, they can dart
away. Most fish can’t swim backward.
■ Keeping the net’s mesh under control
before scooping the fish is a must; if
you let it swing freely in the breeze, it
can foul the fishing line or get caught
on a cleat. With most nets, the best
way is to hold the mesh up against the
net’s handle, then let it fall from your
hand as you go to scoop the fish.
■ When a double hookup occurs on the
boat, scoop one fish, dump it on the
deck, then scoop the other separately.
Two flipping, flopping fish in one net
make for some serious tangles.
Lenny Rudow is a fishing and electronics
expert and a frequent BoatU.S. Magazine
contributor. Rudow is also the president of
Boating Writers International.
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AUGUST | SEPTEMBER 2016 BoatU.S. Magazine | 35
Proper Catch-and-Release Tactics
If you’re catch-and-release fishing, don’t worry as much about losing the fish while
landing it; your main concern
should really be to make sure
that the fish gets released
unharmed. Whenever possible,
take the hook out while the
fish is still in or partially in the
water. Lipping is a particularly
good method to use, when
possible. Avoid grabbing and
squeezing the fish, which can
harm its internal organs. And
never hold it with a dry towel,
which will remove its protective coating of slime. Also avoid using nets, which tend to rough up the fish, unless
the net is specifically made for catch-and-release fishing; such nets usually have a
rubbery coating over the mesh. Visit Fishsmart.org for a more comprehensive look
at how to release fish unharmed.
The stiff knotting in regular nylon net mesh abrades
the fish and removes its protective slime, so mesh
with a rubberized coating is the best choice if you
plan to net fish that will be released.