By Tim Allard
With fall fishing in full swing, chances of landing a chunky trophy are better than ever. As water temperatures drop and anglers bundle up, hand-landing is less of an option and nets become crucial. Yet, having a net is not enough. Proper technique and communication are crucial to ensuring a quick landing and healthy recovery of released fish.
Net Placement and Positioning
The constant in landing a fish is to net it head first, with two options for net placement. One method is to lower the net into the water and then lead the fish into the lowered net. The downside of this method is that fish often spook after seeing the net, causing additional stress to the fish and could cause a boat side break off. Furthermore, it can be difficult to hold large nets or position nets in strong currents.
A better approach is to hold the net above water until the fish is within netting range. Positioning is influenced by boat size and layout as well as water conditions but if using a net with a short handle, position the netter in front of the angler. With long handled nets, the above positioning is an option, but standing side-by-side can be more effective.
The Landing Process
If fishing with people new to netting, explain that moving a net through the water can create a lot of resistance so they should be positioned to put some force into the netting motion. Ensure the net is submerged about a foot in front of the fish otherwise it may bump the fish and could dislodge the hooks, causing an early release.
Once the fish is netted release the line tension on the lure by lowering the rod and disengaging the reel. This allows the hooks to easily be removed and also minimizes the risk of the bait snapping backwards if the fish suddenly shakes the hooks. Also while in the net, ensure the fish is kept in the water as much as possible.
Using nets to land fall trophies is not only an excellent method to reduce stress on a fish, but also has benefits to anglers. Using a net will keep hands and clothing dry from cold, fall waters. If you have an old net you may want to consider upgrading your set-up. Higher-end nets feature synthetically treated nylon that is both hook resistant and does not remove the fish's protective slime like knotted, untreated nylon. A quality net will last for many seasons and using top of the line equipment will increase your confidence when it's time to net that fat, fall fish.
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