Get the Net!

May 25, 2015 by  

I was fishing with my friend Mike Gottheardt on Sturgeon Bay in Lake Michigan in Wisconsin recently.  It was on this trip that I re-remembered why netting the fish that’s on the end of your line can be a good idea.  Actually, it’s a good idea for several reasons. Following are some of those reasons.

Netting your fish is a good idea for several reasons.  In this case, Mike Frisch is avoiding a crankbait that has two treble hooks.

Netting your fish is a good idea for several reasons. In this case, Mike Frisch is avoiding a crankbait that has two treble hooks.

On our recent days on the waters of Sturgeon Bay, the wind was blowing, and blowing hard.  Really hard.  We were fishing smallmouth bass in areas that were a bit protected, but still pretty windblown.  The boat was moving up and down with the waves.  This lifting/falling effect can make landing larger fish tricky.  We were catching smallmouth consistently.  Some were swingers, but some were too large to swing.  We started the day reaching into the water to hand-land the fish, but it was hard to do with the boat going up and down with the waves.  And, not only was it difficult to grab the fish, but if multi-hook lures were being used, it was dangerous.  Mike and I quickly agreed that it would be better for us and the fish if we netted them.  We could get the fish in the boat much faster, and much more safely at that.

Even on calm days though, it’s usually better to net the fish.  If you’re landing the fish by hand, you have to wear it out pretty good to get a hand on it.  If you’re going to keep the fish, that’s okay, but if you want to release it, chances for a successful release are reduced.  Fish that are played to exhaustion don’t survive release as well.  A fish that’s quickly netted and released has much better odds for survival.

Another consideration:  Sometimes you get into a school of fish that are biters and want to get caught.  This can be a very brief period of time.  To take full advantage of these biters, it’s good to get the fish in the boat and your line back in the water as quickly as possible.  By netting the fish, you’ll be able to get your bait back in the water faster, which increases your chances of getting bit.

Mike Gottheardt got this smallmouth in the boat quickly with a net, then got his bait back in the water quickly in search of another bass.

Mike Gottheardt got this smallmouth in the boat quickly with a net, then got his bait back in the water quickly in search of another bass.

Last reason for netting:  Netting your fish gets your boat partner involved.  This is especially good for young anglers.  We want them taking part in the experience.  Some youngsters enjoy netting the fish as much as catching the fish, or at least they like netting better than just watching.  This is a good opportunity to make them part of the experience and to also teach proper netting technique.

Speaking of netting technique, there are three considerations:  Net the fish head-first, don’t chase the fish with the net, and don’t put the net in the water until you’re ready to scoop the fish.

Many modern nets are designed to be fish-friendly.  The bags on nets from years past were rough and could damage fish, but that’s not as much of an issue anymore.

As we get into the heart of the open water fishing season, keep a net in your boat and use it whenever the bite is good or whenever you have a larger fish on the end of your line or whenever you want to make the fishing experience more fun for your boat partners.  That means we should net most of the fish that we’re lucky enough or skilled enough to trick into eating our bait.

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