The Scoop on Landing Nets
Whether you're fishing for bass, barracuda or sharks, the right net will help ensure success in that last, crucial moment.
By Gibbs Milliken
The trend in landing nets is to make them more fish-friendly. Older styles had coarse mesh bags with large, rough knots that not only injured the fish but also allowed hooks to hang in the weave. The most recent designs are intended for catch-and-release anglers. They have softer bags and special coatings that prevent hooks from penetrating the threads. These nets come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, from small one-handed teardrop styles to huge flat-faced hoops with long handles for landing large fish from boats, piers and jetties.
Among the finest traditional nets available are those made by Ed Wachter in St. Paul, Texas. The frames are crafted of five-ply select American hardwoods laminated for strength, then multi-coated with a smooth hand-rubbed waterproof finish. Their best grade, the Wachter Guide C&R Trout Net, is extremely lightweight and is easily attached by a magnetic release to hang high on the back while wade fishing. It has a 7- by 16-inch hoop with a handle of sycamore wood. Other styles and sizes can be custom ordered in many beautiful wood patterns. All these nets are one-of-a-kind creations and come with ultrasoft netting for careful fish handling. ($90, Guide C&R Net, Wachter, 972-429-9301, www.wachternets.com)
When fishing from a kayak, canoe or float tube, it is best to have a long handle for extra reach. The Frabill Deluxe Wood Trout Net features a multi-laminated frame with a 23-inch handle, elastic lanyard and clip closure for securing to the boat, fly vest or belt loop. The bag has a 14- by 18-inch opening of fine knotless mesh with a flat bottom to softly cradle the fish until released. ($49.99, Model #3405, Frabill, 800-558-1005, www.frabill.com)
Larger saltwater species usually require a sturdy aluminum frame net and handle that will telescope for a long reach from a high position. The bag should be tough enough to withstand a thrashing from kingfish, barracuda and shark teeth or the razor-sharp gill plates of snook. The Frabill Tru-Trax Net has a heavily coated two-foot tangle-free bag and, with a positive twist lock, is quickly adjustable to various handle lengths from 4 to 8 feet. Two soft foam wraps around the butt provide a sure grip. The net hoop can be removed with a pressure pin for compact storage. ($74.99, Model 3814, Frabill)
A design especially for bass fishing is the Frabill Pro-Tech Catch & Release Net. It has a wide straight front rim and cushion-coated knotless mesh 21- by 24-inch bag with a flat bottom. The 36-inch light graphite handle ends in a thick non-slip indented foam grip great for one-handed control. It totally collapses without tools and fits into its own clear vinyl bag for rod locker stowage or air travel. ($69.99, Model 3700, Frabill)
Specialized nets made for delicate handling of huge carp, salmon and steelheads have evolved into lighter, softer and longer designs. The Fox Tourist Net with a 42-inch triangular opening double-mesh bag weighs only 2 pounds. The graphite composite handle telescopes out, allowing an amazing 10-foot reach. This length, plus the outstretch of an arm, gives the angler a great advantage if fishing from a riverbank or rough shoreline. Heavier fish must not be dead-lifted with the thin handle, but, instead, pulled to shore and landed by grabbing the bag. Intended for the traveler, the net disassembles and fits into a 4- by 33-inch tube for easy transport and storage. ($149.95, Tourist Landing Net, Fox, 918-331-9047, www.bigcarptackle.com)
The use of a net is really good insurance for landing the fish of a lifetime. It is now common practice to catch and release. To have an exact replica made for a wall-mount of a record fish, all you need is a certified scale, a camera and a measuring tape. Best of all, you are left feeling good that your prize catch will live to grow, breed and fight again another day.