The last thing any angler wants after snagging that prize-winning fish is to lose him due to poor netting techniques. While netting a fish may seem like a pretty straightforward practice, there is definitely a right and a wrong way to net fish like a pro. Netting a fish the right way often involves a bit of teamwork, good timing, and some basic know how on netting best practices.
If you’ve been struggling to net fish, we’ve rounded up the best tips and tricks for getting the job done right the first time. For anyone who wants to net fish like a pro, here is your guide to doing so.
Best Time to Net a Fish
When it comes to netting a fish, timing is truly everything. If you try to net a fish that isn’t ready, you’re already on the losing end of a battle. On the flip-side, playing a fish for too long can prove distressing and give them ample opportunity to unbutton. How do you know when a fish is ready to net? Start by looking for signs that a fish is NOT ready to net.
For example, if the fish appears to be holding upright in the water while keeping his head in a downward position, he is not ready to net. Once the fish rolls on his size and surfaces, this is when you can net him. Keep in mind, the first time he takes this position, he may right himself one more time and make a run for it. The second time is when you can truly seal the deal.
Additionally, with certain types of fish you’re going to need to make sure the fish is tired. Species such as salmon will never volunteer for the net. They have to be led there. However, the fish first has to be tired enough for a controlled turn or steady surface pull into the net. Trying to net a salmon or fish that isn’t tired will generally lead to poor results.
How to Net a Fish Like a Pro
Stick to Netting at the Surface
You always want to net a fish at the surface. Once a fish is tired or on its side, bring it up to the surface with the rod tip and fish out from the boat. If you attempt to scoop a fish below the surface, your odds for success are poor. Under the water, he can turn quickly and make a daring escape. There is also a good chance that you will catch the line with the net and break him off. Both of these scenarios are not ideal.
Instead, bring the rod tip up high and use a good amount of force. As long as the nose of the fish is dry, he can’t make a break for it. Keep an ideal distance between yourself and the netter at a rod length away. This will allow you to lead the fish to the net with one long sweep along the surface, rather than pulling up. Far too many people end up losing fish by simply pulling straight up instead of going along the surface.
Always Net the Head
One thing many angler’s get wrong when trying to net fish like a pro is scooping a fish up from behind. It is a natural inclination that often leads to poor outcomes. So what is the best way to net a fish? Generally, you always want to net the head of the fish. Don’t try and snag the fish from behind, this will only work on very small fish.
Any fish that is medium to large in size will swim right back out of the net. Since fish do not have a reverse, putting in his head in the net first will ensure that he has nowhere to go. Right away, this significantly improves your odds of actually netting the fish and getting him on board.
Additionally, seek to control your fish as you net him.
Use the momentum of the fish itself to bring him into your net. Unlike a car or boat, fish don’t have breaks. Simply steer his head directly into your net. Always keep him moving and have his nose up. This will glide the fish right into the net. Remember who is in charge and dictate the terms of netting.
Maximize Overall Reach
Netting a fish like a pro means using every advantage you have to get a fish in the net. That means utilizing your maximum overall reach. Take advantage of your full arm span and the entire length of your rod. Our recommendation is to reach your rod hand out and then up behind you. Turn the reel away.
As you scoop the fish into the net, angle your body toward him. Reach quickly with a fully extended net arm and crouch. This will give you the reach you need to keep from breaking your rod while still bringing that fish in like a pro.
Netting Mistakes to Avoid
Now that you’ve got some clear tips on what to do to net fish like a pro, let’s talk about rookie mistakes to avoid when trying to net a big fish.
Bringing a Net That is Too Small
Before you hit the water, make sure the net you have is adequate enough for the type of fish you intend on catching. You want a net that has a large rubber basket and one that is capable of catching at least two-thirds of the fish you may encounter that day. A too-small net will almost always lead to you losing your fish.
Panicking While Netting
Netting is obviously a big moment for any angler, but don’t let the pressure get to you. To net fish like a pro, you need to keep your cool. Panic tends to lead to rash decisions. Rash decisions almost always lead to losing the fish you so desperately want to catch. Keep an even-keel and remember these tips. Focus on the basics, make a plan, and take a shot when it comes.
It is natural to want to walk backwards in an attempt to get your fish into the net. However, that’s almost always the wrong move. Stay on the side of the boat that your fish and netter are currently on. Do not walk backwards or you will lose your fish.
Giving Up Too Quickly
Finally, you want to avoid giving up too quickly. We get that it can be frustrating to try and fight for a fish if it feels like it is going nowhere. However, just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re down for the count. Don’t give up until you have the fish in the net. Sometimes, fish can pull some crazy last minute turns. Keep an eye on the prize and be prepared to react accordingly. You can net a fish like a pro, just don’t give up!