Bruce Ajari | Proper nets help with catch-and-release angling
I’m often asked if it is a good idea to use a net while fishing. My personal preference is to always fish with a net. I do this for a couple of reasons, primarily to ensure a fish’s survival.
First, a net lets me land a fish that still has a good amount of energy left, and second, it allows me to handle the fish a minimum amount.
A good net should either be a soft mesh net, or better yet, a rubber net. The net you choose should allow you to fit a large fish on your home water. While I use a soft mesh net in a river, I use a long-handled rubber net in most still-water situations.
The rubber net is really easy to handle fish, and when using barbless hooks, you may not have to even touch the fish. It is a great system since the angler does not risk the possibility of taking off the fish’s protective slime or scales. I will actually let the fish revive in the rubber net and just release it from the net without handling the fish. A rubber net is certainly the best way to release a fish unharmed.
Using hard nylon mesh nets really are not good for the fish because they are abrasive and can remove both scales and slime. These types of nets should never be used when practicing catch-and-release angling.
Netting technique varies depending on what kind you are using and whether you are in a stream or lake. Moving water presents the most challenges to an angler, just because the fish is fighting in the current and can use it to its advantage.
When netting a fish, the preferred method by most anglers is to net the fish head first. Some anglers believe a tail-first method is preferable since the fish will not react to seeing the net. The only problem is that it may feel the net and react. By netting head first you are making sure that the fish is going in that direction if it bolts at the last minute, and you are more likely to have in end up in the net.
In a stream environment, the angler can use the current to his or her advantage. Most anglers will get the fish to the surface and skate it upstream and then let the fish drift back into the net headfirst.
In a lake environment, whether boating or from shore using a long-handled net, the angler should wait until the fish is controllable and then skate him on the surface into the net for the best results.
If you are netting a fish for a friend use the same process. The one difference here is that since you do not have control of both elements, the chances of a mishap and loss of the fish are much greater. Believe me, if you knock off a very nice fish while trying to net one for a friend, they will never let you forget it, and you feel very bad.
Nets can be a great aid to an angler and can be very good for the fish if you are practicing catch-and-release. Enjoy your time on the water and give a net a try.
and#8212; Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.