Any recreational angler who’s tried tuna trolling and managed to bring a fish up to their boat knows that it’s not as easy as it looks to gaff a tuna. Worse yet, botched gaff shots quite regularly lead to lost fish. In fact, more fish are probably lost during gaffing and landing than are lost during the fight to bring the tuna up to the boat. Just how good are your gaffing tactics? Check out this video which FishTalk Editor Lenny Rudow made for In it, he’ll show us three important things you need to know to be an effective gaff-man.

As Rudow points out, in the long run nothing beats practice. But, how will you get that practice without missing out on a bunch of tuna steaks in the process? Here’s a good way to get a feel for how to gaff a tuna while you’re trolling along, waiting for a strike:

  1. Save an empty two-liter plastic soda bottle.
  2. Fill it one third to one half of the way up with water.
  3. Tie it off to the end of the line on a stiff trolling rod.
  4. Have the gaff-man being trained stand in the back of the cockpit, while an angler stands as far forward as possible with the rod.
  5. Let out enough line that the soda bottle is trolled along within gaffing distance. If the bottle rides along the surface, pull it in and add more water—you want it to bob and weave through the water, just under the surface.
  6. The angler holding the rod should jerk and pull so the bottle behaves more or less like an uncooperative fish, while the gaff-man takes his shots.
yellowfin tuna
Remember the tuna you saw being gaffed in that video? There were a total of five taken that day, aboard the Intrepid 430 Forever Young.

Watch a highlights reel of the entire day of tuna trolling (in May, just inside of Baltimore Canyon) aboard the Forever Young, captained by Dr. David Lavine.

Natrually, when it comes to tuna fishing you can plan on needing a lot of know-how and the proper gear to get that tuna on the line in the first place. Hooking up with these fish takes some serious skill, as does battling them successfully to within gaffing range. For more information on tuna fishing in the Mid-Atlantic region check out:

Editor's note: This article was originally published in March of 2017 and was last updated May 8, 2024.