Until I fished in an international rules fishing competition I had no idea that netting fish actually required any thought or practice. However, once I watched some real masters with a net I was convinced. Many fish are lost just before they are landed and a big reason for this is that the angler just doesn't have a net or doesn't have the netting part down. Here are a few net things to think about:
1. When placing the net slip it straight into the water, almost with an easy jabbing motion, just under the fish instead of trying to sweep it through the current up to the fish. The resistance of the net bag against the water makes sweeping the net in this manner very slow and inaccurate and will give the fish more time to become unhooked.
2. Carry a net with a large opening and large relatively shallow bag. This will make it hard to miss the net with the fish. The wide shallow bag will also help you to reach in and remove hooks easily and get the fish back to the water safely.
3. In order to release fish unharmed, always use a net with a soft rubber bag or rubberized coating on the netting material. The old green or black fishing nets with knotted netting material are brutal to the protective slime and scales and fish with damaged scales or slime will often contract diseases that can later kill them.
4. Work the fish to the surface and even slide it across the surface into the net. A fish at the water's surface will become far easier to control than one that is deep and can still use the current to its advantage. Many fish are lost because the angler tries to net them when they are still too deep.
Using a net, if it is the right net used in the right way, will actually help you to land more fish and will help you to release the fish with less stress and potential for harm. Practice netting just as you practice other fishing skills and you'll be surprised at how much easier landing and releasing fish becomes.
I'll see you on the water!
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