by Chris Larsen
Hours of tying, casting, baiting hooks, pulling weeds out of hooks was about to pay off. The trophy walleye we worked for all day was about to come to the surface. As the net hit the water disaster struck. The massive fish rolled, bumped the net support, and returned to it’s Mississippi River haunt. We were left scratching our heads and stunned. One little mistake separated us from one giant walleye. I’d like to think the monster is still stalking that rock pile waiting for his next meal. The missed opportunity served as a learning experience for all involved. Proper net technique can make the difference between glory and disgust. Here’s a few tips to help you become a better net man and put more fish in the boat.
Don’t Put The Net In The Water Early
This may be the biggest and easiest net mistake to make. The best time to put the net in the water is when the fish is just a few feet from the boat. You should see the fish moving toward the boat before putting the net in the water. If the net is put in the water too early, it can tangle or end up on the wrong side of the hoop. This can cause the hook to get caught in the net or flat out prevent the fish from being netted.
Inexperienced net minders often stab at the fish using a completely horizontal approach to netting the fish. This can lead to hitting the fish with the hoop and knocking the hook loose. The proper technique is similar to scooping ice cream. Get the outermost section of the hoop under the fish and scoop up, putting the fish almost completely in the net before you lift. This helps keep the hook out of the net and assures you of a clean landing even if the hook breaks loose.
Scooping is without a doubt the way to go. But it can lead to trying to scoop the fish from the side or the back. Scooping headfirst decreases the risk of hitting the fish with the hoop and forces the fish to swim into the net instead of away from it. The headfirst approach also puts the natural momentum of the fish in your favor since it’s already moving toward you.
Have The Right Net
Nets are made in a wide variety of sizes and designs. The same net used for fishing a trout stream would be woefully inefficient for musky fishing. Be sure the net fits your boat as well. Many walleye rigs have high gunwales making a long pole a necessity. If you plan to fish out of a small jonboat a more compact net may be all that is necessary.
In hockey, the goalie is also known as the “net man”. The job is similar in fishing. Everyone else on the hockey team could do their job perfectly, but if the goalie isn’t doing his job, the team will lose. A steady, skilled net man makes all the difference on the rink and in the boat.