The Lost Art of Netting A Fish
By: Mark Romanack
In jigging or casting applications, the landing net is bet positioned in the cockpit of the boat where anglers at either end of the boat can easily reach it.
Who among us has not botched a net job at one time or another? If your fish netting record is 100% chances are you have not been in charge of the net job very long! Clearly netting a hooked fish is a two person job, but only one person gets blamed if the job goes sideways.
Certainly no one is perfect, but with a cool head, a little knowledge and some advance planning, hooked fish should turn into landed fish every time.
COOL HEADS PREVAIL
Most of the time when a hooked fish is lost at the net, it’s because either the person fighting the fish or the person on the netting chores did not have a cool head. Rushing the job is just about a guarantee that the end result will not be pretty.
I can say with certainty, that badly wanting the fish in the net won’t make it happen. What will make a fish come safely into the landing net is team work.
When a fish is hooked, one person is going to fight the fish and the other is obligated to immediately get the net ready. It’s simply amazing how often a landing net gets fouled on something in a fishing boat at precisely the wrong moment in time. The way to avoid this situation is to store the net in such a way it can be easily reached.
At Fishing 411 if we are trolling typically the landing net is stored in a Cisco Fishing System net holder located just forward of the windshield. If we are casting, the net is laid on the floor of the boat’s cockpit where it can be reached quickly by anyone in the boat.
The net man should have the landing net in hand and be ready long before the fish arrives at the boat. Rushing to get the net ready at the last second should not be an option.
The person fighting the fish is obligated to communicate with the net man. Helping to point out exactly where the fish is, how far away it might be, how the fish is hooked and predicting which side of the boat works the best for netting the fish are some of the critical things the angler should be communicating to the net man.
When there is a breakdown in communication, things often go sideways. The net man should also communicate with the angler. Details and a little coaching go a long ways when it comes to settling nerves and effectively working as a team.
NET IN THE WATER
Every time I watch anglers put the net in the water and then try to drag the fish to the net, I tense up. This is a disaster waiting to happen. The net should only go into the water at the moment of truth when the fish is close enough to reach with the net.
Once the net is in the water, it’s much more difficult to move the net quickly. This is why the net man should be ready, but not with the net in the water.
When trolling the author recommends storing the landing net in a vertical tube holder to insure the net is ready to go at the moment of truth. Companies like Cisco Fishing Systems make tubes especially designed as net holders that slip into track which can be mounted just about anywhere in a fishing boat.
HEAD FIRST ONLY
A fish should only be netted when the net man can scoop under the head of the fish, lifting as the fish slides into the net bag. Trying to net a fish from the tail end is almost certain to end up badly. Fish can’t swim backwards, but they sure as heck can swim forwards to avoid the net.
Besides trying to net a fish from the tail end, stretching out too far to net a fish is the next most likely way to lose a fish. When the net man stretches to reach a fish, the leverage and power to move the net quickly is sacrificed. Make sure the fish is close enough that at the moment of truth the net can be thrust into the water with authority and also lifted back out of the water with just as much authority.
ROD UP OR ROD DOWN?
Most of us have all been schooled to keep the rod tip up so as to keep pressure on a hooked fish. When trolling this strategy can actually work against the odds of landing the fish. When trolling fish naturally come to the surface behind the boat. If the rod tip is held high, the fish often breaks the surface too far away from the boat to effectively net the fish.
Keeping the rod tip low when fighting a fish while trolling helps to keep the fish’s head in the water and prevents the fish from thrashing at the surface and throwing the hook. When the fish is close enough to reach, lift the fish to the surface and thrust the net under the head of the fish in one smooth motion.
Landing a fish should be an “all smiles” event. Take your time, make sure the fish is close enough to reach and net the head of the fish. If you follow these simple rules, there will be a lot of smiles in your fishing adventures.
While trolling it’s common to hook more than one fish at a time. Having a spare net on board is handy because once a fish is in the landing net, there is often issues getting the fish unhooked and out of the net. Having the option of grabbing a second net is priceless when a big fish is at the back of the boat and a fish is tangled in the primary landing net.
PASSING OFF THE ROD
If you really want to insure a fish gets off, the practice of passing off the rod is just about a guarantee the fish will escape. Indecision is the issue here. Pausing the fight to pass off the rod is a very bad idea. No matter how much it feels right to pass off a rod, it’s never a good idea.
SUMMING IT UP
Clearly when a fish nears the boat nerves are going to get ragged. Keeping a cool head is probably the best advice when it comes to insuring a fish ends up in the landing net.
Unfortunately, keeping a cool head is anything but easy. It takes a little practice to be cool under pressure.