Some of the best offshore fishing is available off the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Whether you’re fishing the bottom for big grouper and snapper or trolling for wahoo, tuna, and dolphin, many of the most highly sought-after species roam these waters. Generally speaking, these fish types are large and require something better than a net to bring them aboard the fishing boat. Most anglers prefer to use a gaff, but what is a fishing gaff?

What is a gaff that is used for fishing?

When it comes to offshore fishing, a gaff is a sizeable sharp hook at the end of a long or short pole. The gaff’s purpose is to pierce the fish all the way through below the spine to lift it out of the water and into the boat. 

Most fish that are caught trolling or bottom fishing is too large to lift into the craft without breaking the fishing line, causing the fish to escape. The gaff helps eliminate lost fish by protruding it with a sharp hook and lifting the fish upwards and in. 

What length gaff handle do I need?

Gaff’s come in many sizes when it applies to both the handle section’s length and the size of the hook at the end of the handle. 

Gaff handles for flats boats and kayaks

The lower the is to the water the short the length of the handle needed. The goal is to have a gaff long enough to reach the water without struggling to bend over the side of the boat. For small crafts and kayaks, a two to four-foot gaff is long enough and easy to stow. 

Gaff handles for Deep V vessels ranging from sixteen to thirty feet

The gunnels of a deep V vessel are higher from the water’s surface than flats boats and kayaks. As a result of the distance between the gunnel and water, the handle should be four to six feet in length.

Gaff handles for large crafts thirty-two feet and above

Time to bring in the longest length gaff handles to reach all the way down to the water. For these sized boats, plan to purchase a six to eight-foot gaff. With a vessel this big, you will have plenty of space to store it.

What sized gaff hook is best for you?

Selecting the hook at the end of the handle is related to the size in weight of the fish you plan to target. The larger the fish, the larger the hook, and vise versa.

For offshore fish under fifty pounds, the best option is a two to three-inch hook. If you’re targeting larger gamefish above 50 pounds, increase to a three to four-inch hook. Lastly, for large bluefin tuna, shark, or other fish that exceed 100 pounds, utilize a five-inch gaff hook. 

What types of materials are the handles of gaffs constructed from?

Most companies that manufacture fishing gaffs will construct three variations of handles. The first and most common are aluminum, the second is fiberglass, and the third is carbon fiber. An aluminum handle is more rigid and heavier in weight, while a fiberglass and carbon fiber is lighter and flexible. 

Understand the dangers of a gaff

First and foremost, a gaff has an extremely sharp pointy end made to pierce through a fish, so it can just as easily pierce through a human. A child should not have access to gaff or be in the vicinity of the hook when moving around a boat. 

Another danger is a gaff falling from where it is being stored. A gaff that comes free while underway can land on people and pets and inflict severe wounds. Always be sure that the gaff is firmly stowed but accessible when needed. 

So is a gaff necessary on a boat

Whether or not to have a gaff on a boat comes down to the type of saltwater fishing you are doing. Inshore fishermen don’t need a gaff whereas offshore bottom fishermen and those engaging in trolling will rely on one heavily. So the answer is yes if you troll or bottom fish, you will need a gaff and sometimes more than one if you are targeting different size species. Spend the money on a better quality gaff and take good care of it; they can last a lifetime.