The next time you lean over the side of the boat to net a fish, will you experience a successful scoop—or will that big, fat Frankenfish shake the hook free? The answer depends in no small part upon how you swing that net. Far too many anglers knock fish right off the hook, startle them into a last desperate run, or otherwise botch this relatively simple job. To make sure you net properly, use these three tips each and every time.
1. Keep the hoop and mesh completely out of the water, until the fish is within striking distance. Then scoop it in one fast, fluid motion. If the fish sees any part of the net in the water prior to scooping, there’s a good chance it’ll try to dart away. What about placing the net in the water, and “swimming” the fish into it? Bad move. Would you willingly walk into a jail cell? Not without trying for one last attempt at freedom—which is exactly what the fish will do.
2. Tuck the tail end of the mesh in your right hand, and hold it against the net handle prior to scooping. Then, as you swing for the fish, let it fall free. This will keep the mesh under control prior to the final second, which is important to prevent the mesh from tangling or snagging. How many of you have gone to net a fish, and had the net stopped cold in mid-scoop thanks to the mesh snagging a cleat, a jacket zipper, or some other item? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
3. Always net the fish head-first. Yes, head-first. Trying to scoop a fish from behind is probably the most common mistake anglers make when they try to net a fish. If your quarry realizes what’s going on, it will once again try to make a mad dash for freedom. In the best case you’ll end up pushing the net through the water, chasing that fish’s tail. And in the worst case, when the fish makes its final bid the hook will pull, the line will snap, or some other mishap will allow it to go free. Note, however, that fish cannot swim backwards. Once you have the edge of the hoop under a fish’s head, you've essentially sealed the deal.