Tips for landing a bull redfish

Mark Wright shows how to net a redfish, lifting the fish into the boat with the net handle vertical.

The Biloxi Marsh is full of bull redfish, and when fishing there, you’re going to catch your share. The last thing you want to do is lose a big fish at the boat, but many anglers do.

So how do you avoid this problem? These tips from Capt. Mark Wright of Pass Christian’s Legends of the Lower Marsh Guide Service, will help.

• Have the drag on your reel set properly, which means not too loose and not too tight. Too tight, and the line will snap. Too loose, and the fish will run into dock pilings or other debris. Check before your first cast.

• When netting a big red, the most- important rule for the angler holding the net is that the fish’s head goes into the net first. Trying to swoop the fish into the net from the tail end is a big mistake. Anything that touches the fish will result in a reaction to get away, so touching it in the hind end is going to give it an extra incentive to flee even harder. Unless you get extremely lucky, you’re going to push it away from behind with the net.

Netting the fish headfirst gives it little room to maneuver away. It’s not going to like the sight of it, but its only option is to swim straight into it, dive up or down or turn to the left or right, which is far less troubling for the net man than swimming directly away.

• Don’t swing the net. The best net men realize their role is much less than that of the angler. Ideally, the net man will dip the net into the water, hold it steady, and wait for the angler to guide the fish headfirst into it. Sweeping the net at the fish is a bad move that can push the fish away, often resulting in knocking the hook free.

• Don’t bring the fish in green. Most big fish still have plenty of fight in them the first time they are close enough to net. Trying to net a fish that isn’t ready to give up almost never works out. Dip the net when the fish is in range, but don’t force the issue if the fish makes a run. Let the rod and the reel’s drag do their work and wear it down. It may take a few runs, but the fish will tire eventually. Just be patient and ready.

• Once the fish is netted, lift it straight up, not out. When you’ve finally got your trophy in the net, all that’s left is getting it in the boat. Failing here is like getting tagged out at home on an in-the-park home run. Many anglers try to lift the net with the handle parallel to the ground and swing the fish into the boat. That’s a bad move. You want to lift straight up, with the handle pointing to the sky. The fish goes deep into the net, which extends below the opening when you lift straight up. To escape now, the fish would have to jump up and to the side, a difficult task especially once it’s out of the water. 

Then, you keep lifting with the handle pointing straight up, grab the hoop of the net, and once it is above the side of the boat, bring the net and fish aboard, then help celebrate the catch.