Every fisherman has more than one, and yet it is still the most likely piece of gear to get left at home. You know the dialogue: “GET THE NET!” says angler A. “Where is it?” replies angler B. “Right there in that locker” urges A. Then comes the best part, “It’s not there”, reports B. Suddenly a vision of the net leaning against the wall in the garage flashes through A’s brain. Sometimes the forgotten net is remembered on the way to the fishing hole, which is why many of us have more than one- from that visit to the local tackle shop near the lake. At that point, the fish breaks off, right at the side of the boat.

Nets are a fishing necessity. We all see the pros swing that big bass into the boat, and we’ve seen them cradle their catch into the boat too. They rarely show the broken rods we all have

experienced doing the same thing, although sometimes we do get an earful of the expletives and frustrations about the lost fish. There is no substitute for a good net.

The recent trend has been towards using coated nylon or rubber net materials which are more fish-friendly and seemingly less likely to get hooked with all three trebles during the landing and removal of the fish. Nevertheless, there are a lot of landing nets available from the small and compact models for fly fishermen, to super-sized ones used by big game musky and saltwater anglers. When you are looking for a landing net there are a few things you need to keep in mind: 1) Net Material: Rubber, coated nylon and non-coated nylon are the most common netting materials, which can be divided into knotted and knotless categories. Coated nylon and rubber are smooth and fish-friendly, and generally better for selective harvest and catch and release practices than non- coated, knotted materials. Another benefit of mesh-treated material is that

the coating delivers better performance. The rubberized treatment gives the mesh a semi-rigidity that dramatically reduces tangles when compared to non-treated mesh. The coating deters hooks from penetrating into the mesh when a fish is landed and thrashes around. Of course, for these benefits coated mesh nets cost more, but the payback comes from the time saved not having to deal with tangles. These more expensive nets may also feature a coating around the hoop to keep the netting in place and make the unit more durable. Finally, in most cases, opting for a net with black mesh and a black hoop is best. This low-visibility color will not spook fish as you prepare to land them.

If your application calls for a smaller or more compact net for fish such as trout, opt for a net using a micro-mesh material. The actual size of the mesh holes is important. For delicate fish, like small stream trout, opt for small, micro-mesh. For bass and walleye, a heavier mesh is needed with holes averaging an inch in size. For big fish a 1.5- to 2-inch mesh is recommended.

The larger the mesh holes, the less water resistance and easier it is to move the net through the water. As for hoop size and shape, the hoop you choose should match the length of fish you regularly catch. Unfortunately, if you're a multi-species angler, one net won't accommodate every type of fish you catch. An angler could own three different nets= a model measuring 32-by-41 inches for striper and muskie fishing, another with a telescopic handle with a hoop 20-by-23 inches in dimensions for bass, walleye and crappie, and a third 11-by-15 wooden trout net for wading streams. A teardrop shaped net is the most common and versatile style that could accommodate the first two for sure. Some nets known as scooper nets feature a raised front. These are used by anglers needing to net a fish from a significant distance such as anglers trolling big water or steep shorelines.

Having covered the business end of the net, the last thing to consider is the handle, both length and material. Handle length is another important variable as short handles make compact, easy-to-maneuver nets while long handles perform well on big water, when waves and deep hull boats demand a reach of several feet to net a fish. Telescoping, folding and sliding handles are increasingly popular as they provide for better storage during transport, and quickly expand for action when a fish nears the boat. Telescoping models can be locked in place at various lengths, while sliding models only lock when fully extended. When it comes to manufacturers, Bubba, EGO, Frabill, KastKing, Ranger, Southbend, and StowMaster the major brands, and each producing different styles of mesh and types of handles.