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Unhooking a Bluefish: Important Steps to Follow

Relaxing, kicking back, enjoying the great outdoors—that’s my idea of a perfect day of fishing. That is until you lure in a feisty, stubborn catch. I know many types of fish fit that description, none other than the swift-moving Bluefish.

Bluefish are a species of fish that fill you with pride when you catch them. Though, because they’re so high-spirited, they can take a long time to stop tossing and turning.

Yet, don’t you worry. We’re here to lend a helping hand. From learning which baits work best to how to unhook a Bluefish, we’ve got you covered.

So, let’s dive in!

How to Unhook a Bluefish

bluefish swimming

Just like there are different ways to fish, there are several ways to unhook a Bluefish. The trick is removing the hook the right way and reducing further stress on the fish as much as possible.

Author Note: Some anglers bring along various types of tools to help them hold the fish in place and remove the hook.

Other people prefer holding the fish from behind the neck so they’re easier to manage. Then there are those that bash them on the head, which is a bit too gory if you ask me.

Before we go any further, I have to remind you to stay as far away from the mouth area as you can. Bluefish have a scary-looking row of sharp teeth and have been known to bite down pretty hard.

Anxious to find out what your unhooking style is? Keep reading.

Using Dehooking Tools

  • Bogo Grip
  • Heavy-duty forceps
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • J hook tool
  • Release tool
  • Non-slip gloves

Almost every angler I’ve spoken to stressed the importance of using a Boga grip fishing tool. They also swore by needle-nose pliers.

Those are two pieces of equipment that should always be part of your fishing gear.

To use any of the dehooking tools listed above, start by wearing non-slip, heavy-duty gloves. You can wear them on both hands or just the hand that’s going to be handling the fish. I prefer wearing them on both hands as an extra precaution.

Fishing is fun, getting injured or bitten—not so much!

Once your gloves are on, get your pliers or forceps. Both tools are effective at smoothly removing the hook and freeing the fish. Hold your catch with one hand, while loosening the hook with the other.

Hands-On Technique

A word to the wise: Bluefish don’t like being touched and they’re not afraid to fight back. So, this technique works better with small to medium-sized Bluefish. With small Bluefish, grabbing them from behind the head makes it easier to remove the hook.

For some reason, holding them this way makes them stop thrashing. It seems to immobilize them somehow.

Start by putting on your heavy-duty non-slip gloves. Then, grab them from behind the neck, staying as far as possible from those sharp, pointy teeth.

Some anglers place them between their feet with their heads facing away from them. Once you’ve got them under control, they become easier to handle.

If you’re going to try this unhooking method, make sure you’re standing on solid ground. Having that balance increases your strength and enhances your technique. Otherwise, you can end up hurting yourself.

Another hands-on technique you apply is picking up the fish from under their gills.

Author Note: Yet, this requires a firm grip and a bit of stamina. The important thing here is to not let them go once they’re in your hands.

The hands-on technique doesn’t suit larger fish because they have such high levels of energy and endurance. Their first reaction is to flail and attack and they’ll keep at it for a long time, which will only tire you out.

Hands-Off Technique

bluefish jumping

With this method, you don’t even have to touch the fish. For this technique, you’ll need a steel or wire leader and a Tony spoon without the barb or hook point.

When you catch heavy Bluefish, typically over two pounds, it’s better to use a steel leader. This prevents the line from getting damaged.

Hold the fish away from you using the leader. Wait several minutes until it stops flailing around. I have to mention here that Bluefish take longer to tire out than most other fish species. So, the best thing you can do is wait it out

Next, slip in the dull Tony spoon onto the hook in the Bluefish. Position the fish so it’s hanging upside down, then pull down on the leader.

Author Note: Before you start, ask yourself: am I keeping the fish or releasing it back into the water? If you’re keeping it, carry out these steps above a fish box or an ice cooler.

There are anglers, however, who choose to catch and release the fish. If you’re doing that, make sure you carry out the previous steps while holding the fish over the water. This way, the fish can drop back into the water as soon as you’re done.

Remember, fish can’t survive if they’re out of the water for more than a couple of minutes. So, work quickly to ensure its safe release.

Fishing for Bluefish: A Brief Overview

Bluefish are migratory saltwater predators. They prefer temperate waters where temperatures range between 45 and 80℉. You can find them in northern regions in the spring and summer. Sometimes, they reach as far up as Maine.

Then, in winter, they swim back south where the water is warmer. during those cold months, they only reach as far up as the North Carolina coast.

Bluefish are voracious feeders. They can also be a violent and aggressive bunch. They have no qualms about attacking you or other fish, even those larger than them.

The Best Fishing Method

You can use a number of fishing methods to catch Bluefish. They mainly depend on how experienced you are as an angler, as well as your location.

Some people like casting from their boats, whereas others cast off from a pier or dock. If you’re out late in the season, you can cast from the shore.

However, if you manage to start early in the season when Bluefish tend to be offshore. This is when trolling with live bait works best. It’s easy, productive, and way more exhilarating!

The Best Bait for Catching Bluefish

Bluefish don’t discriminate when it comes to bait. There are certain types they like more, like oily fish. Still, they’ll strike at almost anything you place on the hook.

Some anglers use artificial bait, such as surface poppers or diamond jigs. Try to choose baits that can stand up to the tear and wear of the Bluefish. Their sharp teeth and aggressive feeding style will tear up the bait if the bait’s not durable enough.

Personally, I prefer using baitfish, either alive or dead. They get quick results and are easier to work with.

Whichever bait you opt for, make sure you stock up. Bluefish are greedy eaters! They also tend to feed in big groups, or schools. You may end up with a feeding frenzy on your hands.

Here are some examples of baitfish:

  • Eels
  • Mackerel
  • Shrimp
  • Mullet
  • Squid


Here are a couple of common questions that may help you out when it’s time to unhook your Bluefish.

When is the best time to remove the hook?

Knowing when to unhook is just as important as knowing how. You’ve probably noticed that Bluefish have a lot of fight in them.

So, if they’re still thrashing and butting their heads, it’s not time to unhook them. Leave them to drain out all their energy, especially if you’re keeping them.

What’s the best time of day to catch Bluefish?

The great thing about this vivacious fish species is their availability. While other fish are only accessible in the morning or at dusk, Bluefish can be caught at any time during the day. This definitely makes scheduling your fishing trips a piece of cake!

Which hooks are better for Bluefish?

I recommend you use single books, rather than treble hooks. Single hooks take less time to remove. Yet, they’re still sharp and strong enough to hang onto the fish.

Bluefish don’t have a large mouth, like bass for example. So, an 8/0 or 9/0 single hook will work beautifully.

Do Bluefish make tasty meals?

caught bluefish

Large-sized Bluefish are oily and don’t particularly taste that good. The smaller Bluefish, however, are quite delicious.

If you catch one that’s between 12 and 16 inches long, clean and debone it. Then, pan-fry the fillets for a tasty meal.

If you do keep the small Bluefish you can freeze them for up to two weeks. Generally, Bluefish don’t freeze well, compared with other fish species. 

You can also use the small ones as bait. Some anglers release big Bluefish and use the small ones as bait to catch larger gamefish.

Wrapping Up

Knowing how to unhook a Bluefish will save a lot of time and energy. It may even save your fingers!

Before you head out, remember to pack plenty of bait. In addition, make sure all your equipment is prepared and ready to go.

Having quick access to all your tools will help you get the job done quickly and efficiently. It’ll also reduce the risk of damaging your gear or injuring yourself.

After unhooking your Bluefish, you can choose to release it back into the water. We hope you enjoyed this guide on how to unhook a bluefish.

However, if you plan on keeping it, pack it in a cooler filled with ice. Then, once you’re home, you and your friends can dine on some yummy, fillet fish.

Happy Hunting!


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