Get the Net
By: Kyle Sorensen
“Get the net!” It’s a phrase in which we have all yelled once or twice in our life. When we, or someone else in the boat hooks into a fish, we want to boat it, plain and simple. The fishing net is one piece of equipment that can make or break an experience.
While I was growing up and fishing with a great inspiration of mine (Grandpa of course), I always seem to be grabbing for the net more than he. Maybe it was his higher hook-up rate, or maybe it was just the fact I loved being able to grab for the net at any sign of fish. Either or, the fishing net I grabbed for was one of those old aluminum, green, nylon gadgets.
Now, fast forward about 20 years and I seem to like this “old style” of net under some circumstances. It’s a cheap net, very light and the resistance within the water is minimal. Now, it could be some of the memories coming into play but I know that while I am fishing by myself, attempting to control the fish with one arm and attempting to net it with the other, the light weight and maneuverability of this type of net stands out.
If you are using this type of net, however, it is rough on the fish. This type of net can shred fins and cause scale dislodgement, possibly opening the door to harmful diseases. This is certainly not the net a fisherman of just CPR (catch, photo, release) would like on board. This statement does not even touch on the tangles that will surely ensue if the fish has taken a crankbait.
Before heading to the lake, I look at the species I am targeting.
For those of you that know me, you know I love my musky fishing. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t been attacked by the “Musky Fever” but to be able to hook up with, boat and ultimately safely release one of these creatures, it really gets my blood pumping and yearning for more. A safe release of the musky is what I look for. This is why I have a very large net with rubber coated webbing. The large hoop allows for a hefty netting area, without scraping the fish, while being able to preserve the fins due to the net’s thick coating and web design. This type of conservation net opens the door to the two downsides: the weight and the price. Coming in at just over $200.00, it is surely not easy on the pocketbook.
While the conservation benefits are high, and certainly prevail for my musky excursions, it can be quite the operation to wrangle this size of net with one arm and fight the fish with another. When I am in the boat by myself, I usually attempt to play the fish a lot longer than normal in hopes to ultimately coax the fish into the net which I mount stationary on the side of the boat. This, however, sometimes results in lost fish if they are not hooked well.
There are product lines out on the market offering higher fin-saving capabilities; higher than those of a thicker webbed material. These nets have the make-up of a mesh lining on the sidewall of the basket, while still utilizing the larger webbing in the bottom of the basket for water speed. These types of nets offer a higher level of protection to the fish’s fins, however, one treble hook running itself through the side of the mesh can cause severe damage to the sidewalls.
Walleye anglers know the trouble I have touched on; the tangle of the crankbait. While sometimes a quick flip in the boat will work, other times the fish’s size or hook placement does not allow and we must grab for the net. When an eye hits the net, it begins to roll and flop, causing tangles of the crank bait and line we sometimes wonder how it’s even possible. Today, we are able to take advantage of many of the cutting edge product lines which provide some protection against the well-known crank bait tangle. If you have ever fished with a rubber basket net, you will be able to quickly side with me on what I am about to touch on.
Rubber basket nets allow for a lot less tangles and offer a quick removal of the catch. If one were to look on-line at various net reviews, you would see a major downfall which heightens with the size of the net: the weight.
Many manufacturers offer hoop sizes around the 19”X 21” range. If I was able to make the perfect net, for species besides musky and great lake fishing, I would look towards the dimensions of 22”X 24”. This hoop size offers great options for the size of fish without weighing you down.
As you can see in the (ABOVE?) pictures, I was employing a rubber basket net for these photos. A net of this size is perfect for pan fish, average sized walleye and bass species alike. The problem comes when attempting to net the unexpected trophy or when you tie into a species you are not targeting.
Last month I was out trolling in the Fox River (Oshkosh, WI) and was on a decent bite of a variety of species. I did, however, hook-up with a very large carp which weirdly enough inhaled my crankbait. After a long fight, I was able to get the fish boat side and successfully net and land the fish because I did have a larger net with me that day. Because of the larger net, I was able to retrieve my expensive crankbait and release the fish so it would not swim for months with my lure in its mouth.
With this being said, it brings me to my next point. When I am fishing, I usually have two nets in the boat. One of the smaller nets (for ease and water speed) and a larger net (for the unpredictable). Having the right equipment allows for an easier outing and a successful one when conditions dictate.
Now I am not a bias sportsman. Whether I am ice fishing or open water fishing, if a product meets my needs; I use it. You will not hear me mention a product by name unless it is what I use and I could confidently say, “Use this product and you will be happy with it.” With this being said, I do not offer up any manufacture’s names in this article. When speaking fishing nets, each net has its uses and each fisherman has different opinions when it comes to one’s needs.
If you are on the market for a net, I highly suggest you visit a few retailers and try each one out in the store. Look for the net that appeals most to your normal fishing conditions and handle it as you would in the boat. If you are mainly fishing by yourself, I would suggest handing the net with one arm. If a net feels flimsy and the workmanship doesn’t appear to be up to par, put it down and move on to the next. The last thing you want is to lose out when your trophy is one net job away.
Until next time, Tight Lines. Stay Dry.