How to properly net a fish

(Picture by Brian Cope)

Your fishing partner has hooked into a great fish and yells, “get the net!”

It’s your chance to go from unsung hero to zero. Net the fish successfully, and you’ll likely never get a great deal of credit. Botch the job, and you’ll never live it down.

Don’t worry, it’s not that complicated, as long as you don’t make it complicated. It’s as simple as dipping the net into the water, then waiting on the angler to guide the fish into it.

That’s it. Dip the net in, wait on the angler to guide the fish in, then lift it out of the water.

It’s easy to get it right. And it’s just as easy to get it wrong, if you try to do too much.

What you don’t want to do is follow the fish around with the net, stab at the fish, or lunge the net at it.

When it’s all going well and the angler has the fish right at the net, but then the fish quickly turns or jumps, just wait. It’s tempting here to try and “save the day” by swooping the fish out of the water. But as likely as not, you’ll push the fish in the tail, which may give it just the boost it needs to spring free.

Avoid the temptation, and simply keep the net in the water and wait. It’s up to the angler to guide the fish back to the net, and the last thing the net man needs to do is start sweeping and swooping at the water, just trying to luck into netting the fish.


Like most rules in life, some exceptions are warranted, but they are few and far between.

One exception is when you can see the fish is barely hooked. When a lunker bass is near, and you can tell the hook is holding on to just the slightest piece of skin, it might be worth it to make a move with the net.

And if you’re reeling in a fish that could tangle itself in a drift sock, or around a nearby tree or other brush, you might save yourself some trouble by getting a little aggressive with the net.

In those situations, you just need to accept the fact that you might knock the fish free, or it might simply get free on its own. And you also need to accept that sometimes, the angler just isn’t going to guide the fish into the net properly, the fish will shake free, and you’ll be wondering if you could have done more.

But most of the time, as long as you simply put the net in the water and wait as the angler guides the fish into it, you’ll get the fish in the boat and won’t be the scapegoat that knocked the fish off.

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About Brian Cope 229 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.