Master The Art of Netting Fish

Anglers overlook the simple things that can improve their catch or put more fish IN the boat.

Take the art of netting, for example. Have you ever knocked a fish off with the net? If so, read on.

Although there’s no scientific study to prove it, it seems about half of all walleyes lost after hook-up come off at the side of the boat. A fish struggles loose while someone tries to grab a net caught under a tackle box or someone in a hurry knocks the fish off with the hoop of the net or a hook gets caught in the net and the fish comes free.

Ted Takasaki

Those situations can all be heartbreakers if there’s money on the line, or the trophy of a lifetime escapes at the last moment.

Net Man is Key
When a fish does make it into the livewell, at least 49 percent of the credit must go to the net man. That’s how important a good net man can be.

Here’s how to increase your odds of success using a net.

First, choose a net large enough for the task at hand. A good rule of thumb is to buy the net with the biggest hoop, deepest “basket,” and longest handle that will fit comfortably in your boat. You can’t net what doesn’t make it within reach of the net. Don’t scrimp and try to save a few dollars on this piece of critical gear.

Companies, such as Beckman Nets, now a division of Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle, make hoops ranging from 16 inches to 34 inches.

“You don’t want a 20-inch hoop for northerns,” said Bruce Beckman, whose father founded the company over 45 years ago.

The smallest hoop is for panfish, he said. He added the 16-inch to 22-inch sizes are good for bass. The 22-inch to 26-inch sizes are great for walleyes. A 26-inch hoop will tackle most northerns, and a 30-inch hoop will do for king salmon. And for muskies, you want a 30-inch to 34-inch hoop.

Rubber Net is Hook-Proof
Nylon netting that is treated with a rubberized coating is hook-proof. It’s excellent for avoiding a common situation when a walleye is able to put the hook into the netting itself, thus taking a long time to extract it. Knotless, treated “bags” are easier on the fish.

Aluminum handles, yokes, and hoops are the strongest and lightest. And four feet is the most common handle length.

Now that you own a Beckman or other fine net, don’t leave it in the pickup truck. It’s an essential tool, and make sure it’s in the boat before you launch. Also make sure that the boat stays clear of clutter. Tackle boxes, rods, and reels, must be out of the way so you are free to get to any location in the boat.

Always keep an eye on your net to be sure something doesn’t get put on top of it and the bag is kept away from things such as anchor cleats and rod holders where a net can get hung up.

And don’t forget to wear polarized sunglasses to cut glare.

The moment the words, “Fish On!” are heard, someone must grab the net and move into position. Hold the bag against the handle with the hand closer to the hoop to avoid catching on cleats, a tackle box, or anything else that might get in the way. Put your other hand farther back on the handle so you can push the net towards the fish when the time is right.

Be Patient
The person on the net should be patient. Most fish will make a final run when they see the boat.

Don’t try netting a fish below the water, especially gin clear water, which acts like a magnifying glass. A fish will appear closer than it really is. You could miss and club the fish’s head!

Notice if the fish is still “green” and fighting hard on the surface or if it is lying there like a whipped puppy. If it appears spent, scoop it up. If not, don’t take a chance. If it makes another dash, you could hit it with the hoop and knock it off, or the hook could get caught on the outside of the net.

As hard as it might be, don’t look directly at a fish. We tend to hit what we look at. Instead, imagine you’re netting the water around the fish. It sounds strange, but it works.

When it’s time, scoop down into the water so the HEAD of the fish is centered in the hoop of the net. Envision a spot one-foot in front of the fish’s nose and start pushing toward the fish as the angler leads the fish to the net. If the net is down in the water during the process, your chances of getting the fish are good even if the hook comes out at the last moment.

Sweep And Lift The Net
Don’t “stab” at the fish … sweep and lift.

If you’re catching walleyes or bass, swing the net horizontally, or hand-over-hand the net into the boat, and that fish is yours. Don’t swing the net over your head otherwise the fish could fly out and land on the other side of the boat. That sounds funny, but we’ve seen it happen in another boat before.

For muskies, leave the fish in the net at the side of the boat while someone gets out the release tools and frees the fish while it’s in the bag. Have your camera and the measuring board ready. Keep the net in the water so the fish can be released quickly and healthy.

Don’t “mesh” around. Practice the art of netting, and your catch rate will increase.

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