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It seems to me that на ней in this context replaces на крючке. If so, why is the feminine pronoun она substituted for the masculine noun крючок? Or, if not, what does на ней replace?

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That is a typo. Because some lines higher, you can find a masculine pronoun referred to крючок. It should be

1"и увидели на нём ".

2.И, полный решимости, только слегка побледнев, он подплыл к крючку Соня и взял его в рот.

This is another typo in the same story. They are the author's typos.

А я подражаю дамам. Быть может даже, я сам дама и только скрываюсь под мужским псевдонимом.

And after reading these lines, I am inclined to think he did it on purpose. Just as a stylistic device or literary device. Gender-play. He wrote this story as a parody on women's stories about nothing and included typos intentionally.

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  • Thank you so much for your answer. As far as I know, на ней is used in the sentence in almost all the published and on-line books on this story. Is this because Chekhov used "на ней" in his manuscript (or in the journal where this story first appeared) and also because almost no one (including Chekhov himself) has corrected this typo since then?
    – okazatsky
    May 22 '17 at 8:17
  • Unfortunately, I don't have Полное собрание сочинений, the comments to that volume might be helpful.
    – V.V.
    May 22 '17 at 9:36
  • where is the typo in the second quotation? It looks correct May 22 '17 at 15:40
  • Он подплыл к крючку **Соня**(не Сони) and again "gender-play"
    – V.V.
    May 22 '17 at 16:02
  • Is Сони the genitive case of Соня, meaning к крючку Сони (to Sonya's hook)?
    – okazatsky
    May 22 '17 at 17:46
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My first thought also had been a possibility of a typo. But then, a typo would be corrected in later published versions of the tale.

Because Russian shares a lot of features with topic languages, let's consider the context. And the context suggests some topics of gender ambiguity (which is more than just grammatical gender or just an occasional usage of masculine pro feminine). Cf:

...полная тетя, прежде чем войти в воду, минут пять сидела на камне и, самодовольно поглаживая себя, говорила: «И в кого я такой слон [M] уродилась [F]? Даже глядеть страшно».

So the example of 'gender mismatch' is not just in the sentence you quote. Then, we see the example with the quote you gave:

Посмотрели на крючок [M] и увидели на ней [F] рыбью губу.

Last, but not least, this 'gender mismatch' takes its crescendo in the following passage, wich can be read as a travesty of a travesty:

Безумный карась принял его за Соню Мамочкину, подплыл к нему и нежно поцеловал его в спину.

Therefore my answer to your question together with a comment on a preceding answer would be as follows: the word ней refers to a feminine noun удочка and it is a stylistical trait suggesting gender ambiguity (both in grammatical and social senses).

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