3 Ways To Safely Land A Fish | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A fish being held by lip grippers. Photo by Ty Southerland

Three expert's tips to land and fish you hook.

When you come down to it, the whole point of kayak fishing is getting a fish into the kayak. Hours of preparation and perspiration are decided in a few seconds of chaos. Whether you use a net, gaff or grippers to land a fish, mastering the technique takes trial and error. These pros have logged their share of triumph and tragedy.

juan net
A nice smallie in the YakAttack Leverage Landing Net. Photo by Juan Veruete.

Juan Veruete: Net Gains

Juan Veruete is a pro guide and Wilderness Systems ambassador who specializes in river fishing for bass and trout. Using a net improves odds of landing the fish, but managing a net in a kayak takes practice and planning.

STEP 1: Have the net ready. “I see a lot of guys lose fish when they turn around to grab their nets,” Veruete says. Veruete keeps his net lying on the bow of his boat where it is less likely to get tangled. “I can keep my eye on the fish while grabbing the net.”

STEP 2: Leave just enough line out to direct the fish into the net. “Leave too much line and you chase the fish with the net,” Veruete points out. “Too little and the fish will be dangling in the air.

STEP 3: Lift the rod tip and use the rod to direct the fish into the net. Veruete explains, “Don’t chase the fish with the net, use the rod to guide the fish to the net.” Then lift the fish with the rod while scooping it up in the net.

Mcdonal gaff
The gaff is for fish that will be dinner later. We can taste it already. Photo by Eric Mcdonald.

Eric Mcdonald: Gaffs And Guffaws

When you’ve got the biggest fish of your life on the line, you want pro guide Eric McDonald on the gaff. To land tuna, wahoo and amberjack, the Boyton Beach-based Hobie pro uses a spear-like gaff called a kage. “I have more control pushing the kage into the fish as opposed to pulling a traditional hooked gaff towards me,” McDonald explains. “If you hit the fish correctly, the kage will kill it instantly.”

STEP 1: Try to tire out the fish before hitting it with the gaff. “Often the fish will start to circle below the boat,” McDonald, explains, “That’s a good sign its tired.” Work the fish to the boat slowly and steadily. Turn the fish parallel to the boat.

STEP 2: With the kage in your dominant hand, lift the rod tip to bring the fish close as possible. Then strike the fish with the gaff. “Aim for the head or gills,” McDonald stresses. “That will probably kill it.”

STEP 3: Hold on to the gaff. “The biggest mistake is people let go of the gaff when the fish tries to run,” McDonald stresses. If the fish comes free, McDonald stays calm and waits for a second shot. Once the fish is on the kage, he reaches out with a hand gaff and secures the fish. “Get the fish headfirst into the bag or hatch before it recovers and starts freaking out.”

Southerland grips
Keep those teeth out of your fingers. Photo by Ty Southerland.

Ty Southerland Get A Grip

“Grabbing a fish by the mouth, ensures you have the business end,” Ty Southerland laughs. The host of 30 Miles Out TV adds that a gripper also keeps hooks and teeth from finding their way into the hands and feet. The angler can leave the fish in the water and remove the hooks without damaging the fish’s slime coat and scales.

STEP 1: Bring the fish boatside with the rod in your left hand and the gripper in your right. “If the fish’s mouth is closed, flip the Fish Grip upside down and use the bottom jaw to pry open the mouth.” Clamp the gripper onto the fish’s bottom lower jaw.

STEP 2: Pull the fish into the kayak to remove the hook. “For a large fish, support the belly with your free hand,” Southerland instructs. Remove the hook and lower the fish into the water still attached to the gripper.

STEP 3: Use the gripper to revive the fish before release. Some anglers attach a tether to the gripper and clip it to the kayak to allow the fish to swim naturally until it is ready for release.

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