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This week's Feature Blog

Landing Nets Aren’t Clubs

By: Mark Romanack

Coated mesh bags on landing nets are better than regular mesh when it comes to getting fish and hooks free. Unfortunately, hooks can tangle in coated mesh creating problems an angler just has to learn to deal with.

For those who may not be aware, a landing net wasn’t designed to club fish over the head. While it may appear that a landing net is indeed a medieval torture tool, I assure you - used properly - a landing net can gently lift a fish into the boat without harm coming to the fish or the occupants of the boat. On occasion, a fish may even be landed without so much as a single cuss word being heard! It’s true.

​ If it weren’t so sad it would be comical how little skill anglers of all ages and experience levels have when it comes to putting a fish inside the landing net. Even those with the benefit of age and experience still screw up when the pressure is on and a big one is nearing the boat. I guess we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t make mistakes, but for reasons that are hard to quantify, perfectly sane fishermen go bat crap crazy when you put a landing net in their hands!!


​ Perhaps the biggest mistake anglers make when attempting to net a fish is putting the landing net in the water and expecting the guy fighting the fish to lead the fish into the net. I see this all the time and it’s wrong, dead wrong. Once the net hits the water it can’t be moved easily, making the odds of actually landing the fish slim at best. Keep the net at ready, but don’t put it in the water until the moment of truth.


​ The second most common mistake associated with netting a fish is reaching out to scoop a fish before it is close enough to reach. Everyone gets excited and everyone wants that fish in the boat quickly, but believe me wanting something to happen and making it happen are two different things.

​ Wait until the fish is within easy reach before trying to scoop the fish. Keep this in mind, the longer the handle on the net, the more likely the person using the net will reach for the fish instead of letting the fish come to them.

The author has tried just about every landing net on the market. Most have too many gimmicks and not enough basic features. This Ranger Tournament Series net is as good as it gets. The yoke is reinforced for strength and the hex handle never slips and is easy to extend.


​ When it comes to landing nets, one size certainly doesn’t fit all. Trying to get a big fish in a small landing net is a lesson in futility. Having the right net for the job is critical to success. Like they say, don’t show up to a gun fight armed with a pocket knife and expect things to end well.

​If the opportunity for big fish is a real possibility, do yourself a favor and carry two nets. One smaller one for the average fish and one larger one should the need arise.


​ In many ways, the responsibility of wielding the landing net is much more intense than fighting the fish. To avoid problems at the moment of truth, it helps to communicate with the person fighting the fish. Talking it through helps to calm a person’s nerves and reduces the chances that “target panic” will kick in at the worst possible moment.


​ A fishing boat has a tendency to become a disaster zone with gear laying all over the place. Keeping a clean and organized boat goes a long ways towards making it easier to land fish. The last thing you need is the bag of the landing net catching on something in the boat. This is the primary reason you see so many anglers keeping their nets stored upright in tube style holders. This helps to insure the net is ready when it needs to be ready.


​ More than 30 years of using landing nets has taught me that most landing nets aren’t worth giving space to in a boat. Here are a few of my pet peeves when it comes to landing nets.

​Round handle nets are evil. A round handle net is going to slip in hour hands, guaranteed. Secondly, just try to extend the handle and line up the buttons when the heat is on and a big fish is on the line.

​ Most landing nets fail at the yoke. The yoke or the part that connects the handle to the rim of the net is the weakest part of any landing net. That’s why I use Ranger nets because the yoke is reinforced and will not fail from the weight of a big fish.

​ Mesh landing nets are horrible when it comes to getting lures untangled and fish back in the water. Coated mess nets are a little better, but the operative work is “little” in this case. Rubber nets are by far the most user friendly, but they wear out quickly and are not strong enough for trophy class fish. So what is the answer?

​ I carry a deep bag rubber net for most netting chores and a larger and deeper bag that features coated mess net for larger and more powerful fish. The savvy in this situation is knowing which one to use at the moment of truth. I also replace my rubber nets when they show the first signs of wear.

A deep bag rubber net will handle most fish. For larger fish the author recommends a coated mess bag and larger hoop diameter. 

Finally, gimmicks on landing nets make my blood boil. A landing net has a singular and simple purpose. When you start adding gimmicks to a landing net you are asking for things to get more complicated. When things get more complicated, people fail and that is the simple truth.  Push button extensions, arm brackets for netting one handed, lights on the landing net, bag holding clips etc., are all examples of complications waiting to happen. The motto “keep it simple stupid” rings true for just about everything in life and that goes double for landing nets.


​ The hard and cold truth about using a landing net is everyone is going to screw up from time to time. With time and experience the ability to keep a “cool head” becomes easier, if not completely impossible. They also say that practice makes perfect, but don’t be surprised if along the way landing net skills deviate from perfect and start to look ugly. Relax, it’s okay if you screw up a net job, just so long as it’s not my fish!!


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