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 

Terminally Well

 

Terminally Well  

By Capt. Gus Cane

Even the most expensive rods and reels are worthless without critical hardware. Catching coastal fish requires a wide variety of terminal tackle—the hooks, swivels, line, leader, crimps and other components that complete the rigs. You might be targeting a certain species. But in the briny, you never know what might show up so it pays to be fully prepared to capitalize on whatever opportunities might arise.

Obviously, line is needed on the reels. The choice between braid and monofilament is a personal one. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Having multiple combos on board offers more flexibility and allows a quick switch from light to heavy if the situation calls for it. If space is limited, carry spare spools loaded with different line classes in case of a break-off, bird’s next or the need to scale up or down.

A similar situation exists with leader material. Multiple spools of different line strengths allow for fast changes. Monofilament leader works well for many applications. For super spooky fish or in clear water conditions, fluorocarbon leader is another option. Again, there are pros and cons to each leader type. Having a mix in the tackle bag will cover all bases. Toothy game fish like king, Spanish and cero mackerel, along with wahoo, barracuda, and sharks, often require the use of wire leader. Single-strand, coated and multi-strand cable are all handy depending on the circumstances. A mix will handle any variables.

The same holds true for an assortment of terminal tackle. Hooks come in multiple styles, sizes, and strengths. A thin-wire 1/0 circle hook nose-hooked to a small pinfish is a good match for a trophy seatrout. But that same hook would be way too light for feeding a palm-size pilchard to an 80-pound tarpon. Similarly, the treble hook on a six-inch surface popper just won’t work as a stinger hook on a kingfish rig. That’s why quantity, quality, and application are so important with terminal tackle. You could go through multiple rigs during a hot bite, and you certainly don’t want to run out or have the wrong stuff. Be prepared, and you’ll be ready for whatever you might encounter.

A good way to organize terminal tackle is by type and sometime species. Clear plastic tackle boxes with multiple (or adjustable) compartments allow loading by size or style. For example, keeping multiple sizes of swivels and crimps in one box allows a quick visual reference. Hooks and sinkers can be organized the same way. The boxes can be color coordinated or labeled with tape or magic marker. Loading several boxes in an open duffel bag makes them easier to tote.

Don’t forget the specialized terminal tackle items either. Plastic beads, copper wire, rubber tubing, dusters, dental floss, floats and balloons all have their place in special rigs. Don’t overlook the rigging tools as well. Pliers, crimpers, needles, deboners, bait knives, scissors and other accessories should be kept with the terminal tackle for quick access.

When you’re 30 miles offshore on a weed line loaded with gaffer dolphin, you don’t want to run out of the right hooks or rigs. Stock up and organize your terminal tackle and you won’t be disappointed.

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Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com 

The Versatile Ballyhoo

 

The Versatile Ballyhoo

By Capt. Gus Cane

When targeting reef and offshore gamefish, the versatile ballyhoo is an excellent bait choice. Fished whole or cut into chunks, ballyhoo will entice everything from snapper to dolphin to blue marlin. It’s readily available, either live or frozen, and can be rigged in a variety of ways.

Although common in subtropical waters around the globe, the Florida Keys is where ballyhoo first made an impact in charter circles. The most common method of collecting a well full is by anchoring near the shallow patch reefs and soaking a frozen chum block off the boat’s stern. It won’t take long for the halfbeaks to show up by the dozens. As they dart through the drifting bits of thawing chum, a well-placed throw of a large cast net can quickly gather enough for the day. Ballyhoo are somewhat delicate, though, so be sure to avoid exceeding the live well capacity or keep the excess catch in the cooler to use later.

Rig a live ballyhoo with an appropriately sized circle hook and fluorocarbon or monofilament leader for live bait trolling. Fifty- to 60-pound test line will result in more strikes. Insert the hook through the lower jaw or side to side through the cheeks and troll barely above idle speed to avoid killing the bait. This same set-up can also be used as a pitch bait for sails or dolphin cruising on the surface.

Brined fresh dead or thawed ballyhoo are probably the most popular big-game bait of all time. Who knows how many marlin—both blue and white—and tuna have succumbed to the unassuming ballyhoo. Historically rigged with a J-hook, new conservation mandates and better hook-up ratios have ushered in the switch to circle hooks. The key again is matching hook size to the bait for solid hook sets. Heavy monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders are normally used to impart realistic swimming action. Some crews switch to single-strand wire leaders to avoid cutoffs from wahoo and barracuda, however. Plain or “naked” ballyhoo are effective and are often rigged with a chin weight egg sinker to get down below the surface chop.

Running a lure in front of the ballyhoo increases the profile, adds color and most importantly helps slow the “washing” effect to prolong the usefulness. Soft plastic or nylon skirts are the most commonly used, with an Islander jet head and blue/white nylon skirt the all-time favorite. Trolled ballyhoo can be used on flat lines, off outriggers or behind teasers and dredges. The number of presentation possibilities is another reason why it’s such a popular bait.

Reef anglers use chunks of ballyhoo for snapper and grouper when bottom-fishing. A single ‘hoo can be cut into multiple pieces. Another method is butterflying the fish or filleting along the sides and removing the tail and spine. The exposed flesh adds scent, flutters enticingly and attracts smaller bait like pinfish and grunts.

Whether you catch them yourself or buy frozen packs from the local tackle shop or marina, adding the versatile ballyhoo to the arsenal will definitely increase your offshore success.

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Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com