Netting Out

By Nick Simonson

The evolution of the fishing net in the past few decades has leapt from the one-size-fits-all model of an aluminum hoop with a nylon basket of one-inch squares into the branches of an evolutionary tree reaching out across the horizon of angling options.  From ergonomic grips for more stable solo landings, to extendable handles allowing for greater reach from shore or high floating boats, to oversized baskets to cradle today’s growing trophy-sized fish such as muskies and sturgeon, there’s a landing net to fit all needs, and many models provide a better experience for anglers and the fish they catch.  What follows are some specializations to consider when investing in a new net this season or somewhere down the road.

Rubberized nets have helped reduce damage to the sensitive slime coat of fish like rainbow trout and pike, while preventing lures from tangling in the basket. Simonson Photo.

Soften Up

With the increased practice of catch-and-release, more models have embraced a softer nylon material used to make the basket of the net.  Additionally, rubber-coated nylon, or purely rubber baskets provide even greater protection for fish, being less abrasive and more facilitative of a fast release.  For fish like northern pike, which tend to rotate once they enter the confines of a net, these materials resist the torque of those species and ultimately do less damage to their slime coats, fins and gills as a result.  For those more sensitive fish like trout, the same nets, only smaller, help prevent injury and mortality in those catch-and-release situations.  Anglers share in the benefit, as hooks become easier to remove and are less likely to tangle, ort tether a thrashing gamefish to a wad of twisted fabric making the process of catch and release much quicker and less stressful.

Quite a Reach

Nets have become consistently longer in recent years, with many models providing an extendable arm which increase the length with just the push of a tab and a slide of the aluminum handle.  This configuration is ideal for shore anglers, particularly those who find themselves on higher banks or casting from angled rip-rap.  What’s more, as the back of the boat becomes more and more crowded by larger motors and adjacent kickers, and bigger crafts are designed to float higher in the water, the longer reach helps land fish sooner and more successfully. For those tactics which employ a lot of line, such as a salmon fly or spoon trolled behind a flasher or dodger, a long-handled net covers the extra distance created by the space between the attractor and the fish as it comes up.  Take these elements into consideration and rely on the fact the handle on an extendable net can be retracted into a more compact package for transport, or when not as necessary to fishing success.

Long-handled and extending-handle nets allow anglers to land fish faster or from a greater distance.  Simonson Photo

Go Big

Finally, large nets are becoming a requirement for the established and resurgent populations of monster-sized fish taking root in the region’s waters and the growing number of anglers pursuing them.  With more than 50 years of muskie stocking creating lakes with fish nearing 60 inches in length, and the same half century boasting restoration projects now resulting in lake sturgeon of 60, 70 and possibly 80 inches in length in some waters, larger nets are becoming all the rage for those pursuing these monsters.  Even those models designed for muskie anglers 20 years ago are dwarfed by what is on the market now, and with enhanced mesh designed to live up to the anglers’ catch-and-release demands, they are safer for the fish as well.  While they may cost significantly more than a standard, or even extra-large model, today’s massive nets for these giants are well worth removing the worry of landing such a fish that occurs as it breaches the surface and second-guesses arise relating to current equipment.  When in doubt, go bigger!

This season give consideration to net needs across all facets of fishing.  Whether from shore or from boat, in tiny trout streams or massive muskie waters, there’s a model to fit every angler’s pursuit, and likely a number of species can be handled with these advancements added all in one model.  This in turn results in more successful landings, quicker and cleaner releases, a faster return to the water for the fish and to the action for anglers, with the help of a modern net.

Featured Photo: Growing popularity of muskies and restoration of lake sturgeon populations have spurred an increase in sales of oversized nets for anglers pursuing these large species.   Simonson Photo.

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