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Proper Netting Means More Fish

By Bob Jensen - August 1, 2003
The big one finally hits. This is the musky, walleye, bass, or pike that you've been looking for for a long time. Your hookset was strong. The drag on your reel is set perfectly, the line is fresh and strong, and you know your knot is tied tightly. You're keeping pressure on the fish and, with just a little luck, it will soon be yours. It will be yours IF your fishing partner does a good net job. However, so many big and medium sized fish are lost at the net due to poor netting practices that it's never a sure deal that your fish-of-a-lifetime will come into the boat even if you play it perfectly and the equipment holds up. Following are some ideas for successfully netting the fish on the end of your line.

If you have someone who is new to netting in the boat with you, start off the day by showing them the proper netting procedure. I have discovered at critical times during both tournaments and television tapings that my partner has never netted a big fish before. A couple minutes of instruction early in the day would have prevented some tense moments later in the day.

The main things to not do when getting ready to net a fish is panic or get overly excited. Don't try to net a fish before it is ready to be netted, and never chase the fish with the net. The fish should go into the net headfirst, not tail-first.

Don't reach too far into the water to net a fish. The fish should be on the surface, or very close to it.

Hold the bag of the net in your hand as you're netting the fish. When the fish is in the net, release the bag. By keeping the bag of the net in your hand until the fish is in it, you are reducing the chance of the fish getting tangled up on the outside of the net.

There are a variety of nets available to the angler. Frabill is the innovator in net design. Some nets are designed with truly big fish in mind; others have a special bag that provides additional protection for certain species of fish. They make a variety of nets that will fit your needs perfectly.

Netting a fish is a good idea for several reasons. First of all, it increases your odds for landing the fish. Fish that are thrashing about at boatside can be hard to get under control.

Also, a fish with a mouthful of hooks can be dangerous to grab.

Lastly, it is better to net the fish if it is to be released. Generally a fish can be netted much sooner than if it were hand-landed. This increases chances for the fish's survival. The new design of bags on nets is much more protective of the fish as well. Nets of just a few years ago were abrasive and kind of rough on the fish. Many modern nets don't damage the fish.

If you practice effective netting, your fishing partners will be confident that you can net the big one for them when the opportunity comes along. More importantly perhaps, if you teach your fishing partners effective netting, you can be confident that they will be able to net your trophy fish when it bites.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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