The rod bent and the reel screamed as you battled the heavyweight fish on the line. After a lengthy tug of war, you’ve finally worn it down near the boat. But just as you get it alongside, disaster strikes – the fish makes one last surge and throws the hook, vanishing into the depths. If only you had a proper fishing net ready!
A quality net is a vital tool that no angler should be without. When used properly, fishing nets enable securing fish quickly and safely with minimal handling and stress. But not all nets are created equal. With so many types and features available, it can be daunting to select the right fishing net matched to your needs.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn:
- Recommendations for top-rated fishing nets
- How to match nets to different fishing situations
- Must-have features to look for
- Proper netting techniques
- Care and maintenance tips
- Answers to frequently asked questions
Let’s net the knowledge so you never lose another trophy catch again!
Top 5 Fishing Nets
Based on rigorous evaluation of numerous nets across varying styles, these are our picks for the best options across several categories:
Best Landing Net: KastKing MadBite Landing Net
- Coated carbon fiber frame
- 23” x 25” hoop
- Deep 39” nylon mesh bag
- Folding aluminum handle
The Good: Excellent quality coated carbon fiber frame. Deep bag securely contains large fish. Smooth extending handle. Great value.
The Bad: Heavy for all-day use. Mesh bag prone to snagging treble hooks.
Best For: Regular bass and inshore saltwater fishing from boats. Durability for heavy use.
Best Dip Net: Calamus Nets Soft Rubber Dip Net
- Premium rubber-coated nylon mesh
- 18” x 18” frame size
- 36” telescoping handle
- Flow-thru mesh bottom
The Good: Soft rubber gentle on fish. Flow-thru mesh aids water drainage when lifting fish. Compact size for dock fishing.
The Bad: Rubber mesh shows wear over time. Not ideal for large strong fish.
Best For: Dip netting smaller panfish and bait fish from docks or shore.
Best Cast Net: BETTER CAST NET Fishing Cast Net
- 3/8” premium nylon mesh
- 8’ diameter size options
- Sturdy triple-stitched one-piece construction
- Easy-throw weighted perimeter
The Good: High quality mesh and construction for durability. Good weight distribution for easy throwing and opening. Excellent price.
The Bad: No carrying case included. Limited color options.
Best For: Recreational bait catching. Dock fishing for small fish.
Best Collapsible Net: Wakeman Fishing Folding Net
- Sturdy collapsible aluminum frame
- 24” x 18” hoop size
- Quick push-button setup
- Nylon mesh bag with depth
The Good: Convenient push-button assembly in seconds. Easy to pack in vest or backpack. Solid construction and carrying case.
The Bad: Mesh bag delicate and prone to snagging. Not ideal for large strong fish.
Best For: Backpacking, kayak fishing, fly fishing where compact storage is key.
Best Kids Net: Wild Water Fly Fishing Complete Starter Kit
- Colorful printed design
- 16” x 20” hoop size
- Floats for water recovery
- Extended EVA foam handle
The Good: Perfect entry-level design and size for children. Soft rubber-coated nylon gentle on fish. Extra long lightweight handle.
The Bad: Not as durable as heavier adult designs. For smaller panfish only.
Best For: Introducing kids to the joy of fishing. Light enough for little hands.
Matching Net Types to Fishing Situations
Selecting the ideal net style for your specific fishing needs results in better performance:
Landing Nets – For boat fishing. Long handle with deep fine mesh bag. Ideal for securing hooked fish alongside.
Dip Nets – For dock fishing. Compact hoop size to scoop fish from water. Flow-thru mesh helpful when catching bait.
Cast Nets – For gathering bait fish. Weighted perimeter with drawstring closes net upon landing over fish. Takes practice to master throwing technique.
Specialty Nets – Unique designs for crabbing, flounder gigging, bow fishing and other niche fishing styles.
Choose the purpose-built net engineered for how and where you’ll use it.
Key Features to Look For
- Hoop dimensions – Diameter and depth suited to fish size. Larger for big fish, smaller for panfish and trout.
- Mesh material – Nylon most common. Rubber-coated is abrasion-resistant but shows wear over time.
- Mesh hole size – Smaller holes needed for small bait fish retention. Larger holes adequate for bigger gamefish.
- Bag depth – Match depth to hoop size. 10″-12″ depth ideal for most landing nets.
- Handle length – Short handles for dockside dip nets. Long handles up to 9 feet for boat landing nets.
- Grip comfort – Cork, EVA foam and rubber handles provide comfort for extended use.
- Durability – Look for coated steel and aluminum hoops. Carbon fiber or fiberglass for lightweight strength.
- Extendable handle – Telescoping designs allow quick compact storage and easy extension when needed.
- Accessories – Some nets integrate helpful tools like scales or tape measures. Look for rubber-coated mesh options for gentler fish handling.
Evaluate which features align with your intended purpose when choosing a net.
Proper Netting Techniques
With the right techniques, fishing nets help minimize damage and safely release fish:
- Approach cautiously – Use water currents to direct fish into shallower water for easier netting. Avoid chasing fish to exhaustion.
- Time the netting – Lip hooksets allow leading fish into the net headfirst. Net immediately once fish is beside boat.
- Secure fish quickly – Land fish headfirst and scoop broadly with weight of fish centered in net. Lift straight up and avoid excessive swinging.
- Handle carefully – Minimize removing fish from water. Keep fish in water while removing hook with pliers.
- Revive fatigued fish – Gently hold in current or move back and forth to recirculate water through gills before live release.
- Adjust technique for spiny fish – For catfish and bass, grip at wrist of tail and support bottom rather than gilling net.
Repeating proper technique minimizes injury and ensures fish swim away healthy after release.
Caring for Your Net
A well maintained net will retain peak performance season after season:
- Rinse and dry thoroughly – Especially in saltwater, rinse nets and allow to fully air dry to prevent corrosion and mildew.
- Inspect for damage – Check mesh for tears. Repair loose net rings or frayed stitching immediately.
- Lubricate joints – Keep collars and extension connections lubricated with oil to prevent seizing up.
- Protect frames – Avoid prolonged sun exposure which can damage and dry out net hoop materials.
- Store properly – Keep nets in a cool, dry place during off season. Hang upright or lay flat.
With regular care, a quality fishing net should deliver years of reliable service. Make any needed repairs promptly.
What are the pros and cons of longer handled nets?
Long handles allow easier netting of fish several feet from boat. But they can be awkward transporting. Look for telescoping models that pack down compactly.
Which mesh materials are best?
For durability and abrasion resistance, nylon is the top choice. For gentler fish handling, select rubber coated nylon mesh.
Do handle extensions really help?
Absolutely! An extension handle enables reaching fish further out from docks or boats. Look for at least an 8 foot fully extended length.
How can you repair small holes or tears in mesh?
Use aquarium safe silicone sealant or a product like AquaSeal. Turn net bag inside out and thoroughly coat hole area for permanent repairs.
Is it worth paying more for premium fishing nets?
For intense or frequent use, premium nets provide lasting performance. But for occasional recreational fishing, budget nets often suffice.
Net Your Next Trophy!
Equipping yourself with the best fishing net tailored for your needs is a crucial step toward fishing success. Use the tips in this guide to select the ideal style, features, and handling length to safely land your next big catch. Learn and follow proper netting techniques to protect fish. And care for your nets properly so they are ready when trophy fish opportunity strikes!