How To Properly Land, Handle, Revive & Release Fish


Do you want to catch fish for the rest of your life?

Do you want future generations to have the same fishing opportunities you do?

If you do, then this might be the most important article you’ll read all year…

If we want there to be fish in the future, then we need to take care of the fish we have today.

Of course, we can’t keep all the fish that we catch, so safely releasing the fish we don’t keep is incredibly important.

This video will show you the proper way to land, handle, revive and release fish so that they can live to reproduce and fight and another day.

And this is especially important for larger fish because they fight longer, and the longer they fight, the longer they’ll need to be revived.

There’s a lot of useful tips in here, and most people actually don’t handle fish correctly, so be sure to watch the entire video.


P.S. There’s some pretty gnarly bull redfish action in here that you’re not going to want to miss.

How To Properly Land & Release Fish [VIDEO]

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Note: That monster redfish was caught using a Slam Shady paddletail. Get yours here.

When we catch fish and bring them aboard our boat or kayak, we’re literally taking the fish out of their element.

There are several things that could go wrong when we do this, as well as several things we need to keep in mind.

Keep reading to see what you should never do, and what you should always do when handling and releasing fish.

What To Never Do When Handling Fish

how to not revive and release fish

Fish are usually laying horizontal in the water, with the water supporting their bodies.

What you should never do is hang a fish vertically (either tail up, or head up).

When you do this, their internal organs are being pulled down by gravity, which is not natural and could cause damage.

And if you hang a fish up by their tail, that’s putting pressure on the tails’ bones, joints and muscles that’s not normally there.

If you damage their tail, it could be lethal for the fish.

If you hang a fish vertically by their jaw or gill plate, you could hurt their ability to eat or breathe, which is also possibly lethal for the fish.

What To Always Do When Handling Fish

fish reviving technique

When you’re handling a fish, make sure to always do these four things:

  1. Support the fish’s body by placing a hand under their body.
  2. Have a way to secure the fish so if it wiggles you don’t drop it on the deck of the boat.
  3. When reviving them, you need water to flow through a fish’s gills. Here’s how you can do that:
    1. Move them in a figure eight to get water flowing through their gills
    2. Position the fish into the current so water is flowing through their gills
    3. Motor or paddle your boat or kayak and keep the fish in the water next to you
  4. When releasing them, you can move the fish’s tail to help get rid of the lactic acid buildup and entice them to start swimming.

Also remember this: warmer water has little dissolved oxygen so it will take more time to revive a tired fish in the summer.

Be patient and give them time.


best tarpon tips

Whether a fish is too big, out of season, or you’re just having some catch and release fun, it’s important to know how to properly land, handle, revive and release a fish.

Keep these things in mind:

  1. Never hold a fish vertically
  2. Support the fish’s body when they’re out of the water
  3. Secure the fish so they don’t flop around and hurt themselves (I use these fish grips)
  4. Revive them by having water flow through their gills
  5. Move the fish’s tail to get rid of the lactic acid buildup and entice them to start swimming

Have any more questions about proper catch and release tactics?

Let us know in the comments below.

Most people don’t properly handle fish, so please share this around so that we can have higher survival rates and more fish for future generations.

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Terry Dickey
1 year ago

Where is the best spot to get the air out of the bladder on black drum when you bring them up from from a deep depth

Vincent Cosentino
3 years ago

So, I want to get this right but the part I’m struggling with is getting the hook out. I mostly kayak fish. Are you suggesting that I get the fish to the side of the kayak, set the fish grips and remove the hook all while it is in the water? Then if I wanted a quick photo, lift it horizontally out of the water and use the voice controls on my phone? We shouldn’t even hold it vertically out of the water for a moment to get the hook out? What about people in boats? How should they get them in the boat to get the hook out? I appreciate the detail after such a thorough article.

Vincent Cosentino
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Acevedo

Thanks Tony! Happy Holidays.

Capt. Billy Bice
4 years ago

Tony, I used the reviving method you show in this video for years. However, I started just releasing the fish ASAP with good success. I wonder if continuing to keep the fish captive puts too much stress on the fish building up lactic acid. Are you aware of scientific studies which confirm “reviving” works? Gills of course do not function like lungs. If we are out of oxygen we just take a gulp of air. Water pushed over the gills eventually gets oxygen to the fish but not immediately…how long does it take? I would really appreciate reading a study confirming the best method of reviving our fish. Thanks and tight lines!

Robert Bigelow
4 years ago

oh man after listening to this video i realize how much im doing wrong when handling fish. i use the plastic fish grips for the fact that they don’t jack up the fishes mouth but i always take photos with one hand and hold the fish up with the grip, not realizing how bad that actually is. this video was very informative and so important. thanks tony!

Andrew Rollins
4 years ago

Half the battle of releasing a fish in good condition is fighting it on a proper rod reel combination, and finishing it off as quickly as possible. I also try to release my catches just above the water’s surface, using a dehooker without even touching the fish. I think it may give my inshore catches the best chance at surviving.

Lloyd Morgan
4 years ago

Great video! I thought I was doing a pretty good job handling my catches. Boy, was I wrong. When I am fishing with my kids, I use live bait and quite often they let the fish take the bait too long and get a deep hook set. If this happens, is it better to try to get the hook out and cause damage that way or just cut the line and leave the hook in the fishes mouth?

Frank Santana
4 years ago

Wish I knew this before my profile picture !!! Won’t happen again !!!

Mike McNeely
4 years ago

Genuinely enjoyed your video on properly handling caught fish. On returning a fish into the water after the catch, what is the minimum time for “fish out of the water”; allowing for photographing, etc.???
Mike McNeely

Gary Rankel
4 years ago

Really great tips, Tony……..I still can’t over the size of that red. If they got that big over here, I’d need to spend some time in the weight room to make sure I could lift it!

Bryan Slaughter
4 years ago

Hey Tony, what if you don’t have a peddle kayak? What would be the best way to release the fish? This video helped out a great deal for me.


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