Question: Just what is a polar gaff or polar gaff hook? Why do only a few ice fishermen use it?
The gaff hook is tool that some ice anglers use that can help them pull up a surprisingly large catch, especially when it’s above and beyond what the fishing pole should be able to handle, yet somehow is. While a version of the gaff hook, and related to the gaff spear for fishing, these are generally actually a little bit different from one another.
Honestly, the polar gaff hook is actually a bit uncommon. Gaff hooks are most common with saltwater fishing, where the fish can become large enough that you need an additional hook an set of arms to pull the catch aboard. These gaff hooks almost always have descriptors like “saltwater” or “heavy duty.”
This doesn’t mean that can’t be used for ice fishing: quite the contrary a good gaff is a good gaff but there’s a big difference between a 20 inch model that is ideal for pulling an aggressive northern pike out from the icy water and a four foot one used for tuna and sharks out on the ocean.
What’s a polar gaff hook vs. gaff hook
The answer here is really simple: there isn’t one. Or it’s just marketing. A good gaff hook is going to work for ice fishing just like it would in any given open water situation. The main thing is size – you don’t need a six foot pole hook if you’re not hooking truly giant fish out in the sea.
A solid gaff hook for everyday fishing use will work just fine as an ice fishing faff hook.
Do all ice anglers use gaff hooks?
No, it’s a preference thing. If you’re ice fishing on a lake that has mostly sunfish, trout (not lake trout), grayling, or other small species like that then you won’t need one and there’s little reason to have it along.
On the other hand if the water has a mixture of small fish like perch and bluegill but also big bass and northern pike, then you will really want a gaff hook to help out because if you’ve ever made the mistake of putting a hand by a big northern pike’s mouth, you know how that is going to end up.
It’s a really bad idea.
In certain circumstances it’s a necessary bit of equipment, in others it is unneeded. Local ice fishing enthusiasts will be able to tell one from another.
While I’m sure at some point we’ll do an article on all the best or top rated fishing gaffs (by which I mean me because Jon just looks at ice fishing and says “huh”) but for now, my personal favorite gaff hook while ice fishing is the Promar GF-301. This model is a telescopic gaff hook, meaning the length can be adjusted based on the depth of the ice and what type of specific needs you have, and I’ve always found the grip to be solid, reliable, and comfortable.
That’s a really solid overall combination, but above all this works. That stainless steel hook is strong, it gets the job done as long as you use good technique, and your forearms might get a workout from a 15 lb pike deciding to wriggle every direction out of the fishing hole (and throwing the lure right at your face as it does so – thank god for glasses) but this hook holds – and that’s what matters most.
The hook is corrosion resistant and comes with a safety cover, which is always a good thing. Personally this is my favorite option, and it’s relatively inexpensive so it’s great even for beginners on a limited budget.
Further resources worth checking out:
- Lake Michigan Angler “How to Use a Gaff While Ice Fishing” Article
- Outdoor Life 3 Tips for Better Ice Fishing
- Our article on the best telescopic ice fishing rods
- Our article on the best ice augers available
This piece of equipment isn’t going to be for everyone, especially when it comes to the polar version used to help pull up an over-sized trophy fish that you have somehow managed to keep on the line.
Video on making a kayak spear gaff for fishing