You don’t have to visit Pamplona to experience a running of the bulls. In fact, when you’re fortunate enough to locate massive herds of oversized “bull” redfish, you’ll enjoy the unforgettable thrill of arm-stretching engagement where no one gets trampled, squeezed or gored.
Aren’t all redfish strong fighters? Sure, even the “low slot” fish — those toward the bottom end of the slot limit — tug with impressive vigor often belying their size.
But then there are the bulls. These hulking, oversized fish eclipsing the slot — often by a bunch — epitomize “brute strength.” Nothing fancy, no jumps; just a relentless, low-gear expression of their absolute disdain for whoever interrupted their feeding.
The ensuing battle is one of the toughest in coastal waters and let’s just say you’d better be up for the task, because bulls will test your tackle — as well as your resolve. These fish will take you to your limit and trick you into thinking they’re spent, only to rip off another tortuous run.
To the victor goes the spoils? Well, sometimes. After the blackened redfish craze of the 1980s decimated Gulf stocks, federal waters were closed to harvest, while states tightened up their regulations.
Currently, four of the five Gulf states allow the harvest of over-slot fish — Texas (two over 28 inches), Louisiana (one over 27), Mississippi (one over 30), Alabama (one over 26) — so most bulls are released alive. Nevertheless, these impressive fish, with their glistening copper scales and distinctive tail spots (sometimes multiples) are pretty good about sitting still for one of the most Instagram-worthy bragging rights photos you’ll ever take.
So how big do bull reds grow? Consider the Gulf of Mexico’s state records:
Texas: 59 pounds, 8 ounces
North Carolina’s Hatteras Island produced the world record: 94-2 in 1984.
Granted, such whoppers are less common, but schools of oversized reds will offer plenty of shots at fish in the 15- to 30-pound range. For most folks, that’s more than enough to ding the ego bell.