The gaff, a large hook on the end of a pole, is most often associated with landing large fish subdued by other means. When an angler has the tired quarry boatside, it can be lifted aboard after impaling it with a gaff hook. Some fish are too large and dangerous for a standard gaff; they may zoom off, pulling the gaffer along for a ride if he doesn’t let go. The flying gaff was created for such occasions. Here the hook disengages but is secured by a cable, and the angler fights the fish once again, but with sterner gear.

Fishermen have used gaffs to catch fish in the rivers of the Himalayas for millenia; in fact, some believe that method – essentially an extension of man’s grasp – is the earliest fishing technique. Gaff hooks mounted on long poles were held vertically until a large fish was seen or felt, and then snatched upward.

There are other situations where gaffs are used directly to catch fish. In the Amazon, fishermen use barbed gaffs during flood periods to catch catfish swimming upstream along its banks. During low water, fishermen build platforms along the shores. Then, when waters rise, they stand on the platforms and stroke their eighteen to thirty foot long gaffs up and down until they hook a fish.

Miniature gaffs have been used to collect toadfish, which are cave dwellers. When scientists in Central America had trouble gathering them, children made gaffs from coat hangers, and then dove near the toadfish’s hideouts and pulled them out by jabbing their little gaffs into the corners of the fish’s mouths.