I recently found myself as the gaffman with a large fish being fought to the boat. Just before I could gaff the fish, the hook pulled-out. However, instead of quickly disappearing, the fish remained on the surface and I was able to sink the gaff and eventually boat the fish. Everyone was elated as we had landed the fish, but because the fish became disconnected before it was gaffed, I am wondering if it is considered an IGFA-legal catch?
Although it is no easy feat to free-gaff or free-tag any fish, this situation comes up quite a bit and has even impacted several big money tournaments. IGFA rules specifically state that a catch is disqualified “if a fish escapes before gaffing or netting and is recaptured by any method other than as outlined in the angling rules”.
According to the preamble of IGFA’s International Angling Rules, the word ‘angling’ is defined as catching or attempting to catch fish with a rod, reel, line and hook as outlined in the International Angling Rules. So, in conclusion, free-gaffing or free-tagging a fish, whether it has been fought to the boat or is simply swimming naturally, is not considered an IGFA-legal catch.
IGFA Rule Book: Rules Explained:
Disqualified Once Disconnected
Answer supplied by: Jack Vitek
Position: IGFA World Records Coordinator
This question ran in ISSUE 104 of BlueWater magazine: JUL / AUG 2014