BULL REDFISH: How To Properly Release (Plus What NEVER To Do)


Not everybody catches bull redfish or slob snook regularly…

And because of this, not everybody knows how to properly handle them.

It breaks my heart to see people holding big fish up by the jaw, knowing that it’s probably dislocating it, and is likely fatal to the fish.

Nobody will ever get to experience the thrill of catching that beast again, and it won’t get the opportunity to pass on it’s elite genes.

But here’s the good news: it’s actually easy to handle fish properly!

In this video, we’ve got Capt. Peter Deeks catching several bull redfish and showing how to safely handle them.

This might be the most important video you watch all year!

Check it out below.

How To Handle & Release Bull Redfish [VIDEO]

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How To Land Big Fish With Your Hands

Landing big fish with your hands is Capt. Peter Deek’s favorite way of landing them.

They have less contact with your boat or a net, so they’re less likely to get injured or get their slime rubbed off, plus you’re already ready for a quick pic before you release them.

Here’s how to land big fish with your hands:

  1. Grab them around the base of the tail once you get them boatside.
  2. Use your other hand to support their weight under their belly.
  3. Place them carefully on the deck of the boat (with your hand still controlling their tail) and quickly remove the hook. Another option is to have a partner remove the hook while you’re holding it.
  4. Quick pic and release!

Another way to grab them with your hands is to grab them by the gill plate, and then support them with your hand under the belly.

You need to be extra careful to grab them by the gill plate and not damage the gills, so watch the video at 11:27 to learn how to do that correctly.

fish gills

How To Land Big Fish With A Dip Net

The second option to land big fish is with a dip net.

Dip nets with smaller holes and mesh made of or covered in rubber are plastic are best.

Here’s why: rubber and plastic keep their slime from rubbing off and the smaller holes keep the fins from getting stuck in them.

Now, when you net them, hold them in the water for a second to let them calm down (you don’t want them flopping around in the boat), then bring them in the boat.

Quickly take the hook out, leaving them laying on the rubber mesh as you do, then release them.

How To Release Big Fish

Once you’ve removed the hook and got a quick picture, it’s time to release these fish.

You don’t want to just toss them in the water because they may have not fully recovered yet and would make an easy meal for an opportunistic shark or goliath grouper.

Instead, hold them by the tail in the water and let water (and oxygen) flow through their mouth and out of their gills.

Once they start kicking and seem to have their energy back, you can let them go.

And one thing to do here is to make sure that the water is flowing through their mouth and out their gills — not the other way around.

You can’t just push them back and forth in the water.

Hold them facing into the current, use your trolling motor, or pedal your kayak a bit to get water flowing through their mouths for them.

Why You Should Avoid Boga Grips & Lip Grippers

Lip grippers are really popular to grab fish, but they’re not always the safest option.

Let’s say you’ve got a fish by the lips with a lip gripper and you’re supporting their belly.

That should be safe right?

Well, if the fish squirms and slips out of your hands, now you’re holding them up by just the jaw with the lip grippers.

Holding a 20-40 lb. fish by just it’s jaw is likely going to dislocate it (or at least damage the joints), which could be fatal.

Plus, you’ll be pulling on the area that supports their gills, which could also damage them and be fatal.

Even if they swim away looking healthy, they’re probably injured, so be sure to handle them with care and try to avoid using these grips.


bill dance podcast interview

Although these fish are big and strong, they’re actually quite fragile, so handle them with care when you bring them aboard.

Grab them by the tail and support their belly, use a net with small holes and rubber mesh if you need a net, and avoid lip grippers.

These tips work with big redfish, snook, black drum, and any other big fish you may bring aboard and want to safely release.

Have any questions about handling big fish?

Let us know down in the comments!

And if you know someone who needs to learn how to handle them, please TAG or SHARE this with them!

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John Mathweg
2 years ago

Super job on this video!! It’s troublesome to think that the nicest fish, the ones we like to photo and release may not be making it because we aren’t handling them well.

Michael Quale
2 years ago

Instead, hold them by the tail in the water and let water (and oxygen) flow through their mouth and out of their gills.”

That’s also a good way to lose a hand to a shark. Might want to mention that somewhere. Keep an eye out for sharks, which is probably useless as a shark can come from out of nowhere in a split second.

2 years ago

Awesome job on this video! We all want to be better stewards sometimes we just don’t know how. Thank you

Thomas Single
2 years ago

Do rubber coated gloves impact the slime on a fish less than bare hands when handling them?

James Hagist
2 years ago

Would be great to see some tips if you are wade fishing. You don’t have that nice console to support the fish on while removing the hook. I use a rubber net but open to better way.

john segelken
2 years ago
Reply to  James Hagist

Great question, James. I do a lot of wade fishing alone and it’s always a dilemma on the best way to remove hooks or get a quick photo while wade fishing all by myself. Especially when dealing with toothy critters who can mess you up in a heartbeat. You’ve only got two hands and no deck, dock, or your own lap to support a fish. I use grippers and I just don’t know of many other options.

Capt Camo
2 years ago

A couple of comments…I was taught to hold a fish that you are going to release by the tail until you cannot hold onto to them anymore, not until YOU think or feel they are ready to go. WHEN they are revived enough to get away from your grip, they are revived enough to get away from predators. Try this method and see IF you can hold onto them after YOU THINK they are ready. Second comment…I was taught to not hold a fish upright, unless necessary, when they are out of the water as gravity is now pulling on their entire body weight and putting undo stress on the fish. And, by doing so, gives them a chance to flip and flop and get dropped on the deck! Just a couple of comments and next time I’d be more than happy to help him when he gets tired of catching and releasing those beautiful reds.

Ronald H Mattson
2 years ago

Thank you for the video. I never remove a large redfish from the water. Hold such a fish vertically without support can damage the ‘throat latch’ and the fish will not survive. Try to not touch the gills in anyway.

Stan Mitchell
2 years ago

Yes sir great video Peter, thank for showing the Proper way of handling big fish we definitely have to take care of our fishery🎣💪

David Lair
2 years ago

Well done. Great info. Ty. Btw. What kind of reel was that he was using. Seemed to handle the byfish welk

Christian Hurston
2 years ago

Such a great video @Peter! Learned a ton! You’re the GOAT!


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