To net or not to net ... that is the question

I have good friends on both sides of this debate, and both sides make compelling arguments. I don’t really know where I fall half of the time.

One camp suggests that nets are harmful for trout, and you shouldn’t mess with them. Some nets (like uncoated nylon) will damage the protective slime layer on a trout, leaving the susceptible to disease and so forth. Better to use wet hands, or even no hands at all. No air time, just pop the hook out of the fish’s mouth and move on. (Are many people still using the Ketchum Release? I lost mine, but now I use a little gizmo I fashioned out of an old saltwater hook and a ballpoint pen.)

The other camp says that you beat the fish up more by dinking and bumbling around with them, trying to grab them, or pulling them around by the tippet to remove the hook. Too much time… and too many break-offs, leaving flies hanging in the lips of caught trout. A nice rubberized mesh net (especially one with a fairly shallow basket) is perfectly fine for containing a caught fish, and they benefit from the efficiency a net affords during the release.

If I had to go on record, I’d say that where you are and what you’re fishing for factor into the discussion. For example, I won’t fish out of a drift boat or a raft without a rubber landing net. On the other hand, I’ve gotten away from landing steelhead and salmon (when I’m wading) by any other method than grabbing them by the tail.

Sure, we’re all entitled to fish however we are most comfortable.  But since catch-and-release anglers essentially share a resource, do you think nets help that process, hurt it… or does it depend on the circumstances?  

— Kirk Deeter


Comments

 
said on Friday, January 12th, 2018

I like the rubber mesh nets because I can net the fish, get the hook out, get a picture, and get it back into the water all without having to stress it out more by trying to grab it or brining it into the rocks. 

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said on Friday, January 12th, 2018

"but now I use a little gizmo I fashioned out of an old saltwater hook and a ballpoint pen ".... How about doing an article and photo on this gizmo?

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said on Friday, January 12th, 2018

Sorry but this is Ridiculous! The stress on a fish is much higher if you dont net it because you have to tire it out more. Also here in the North East we have few catch and release only streams. Other fishremen and Poachers who take more than their legal limit are the bigger problem for fish mortality rates. Wheather I net my fish, or tail them, makes Zero difference on these streams. Find another topic, like "Poaching". Lets have a serious conversation about that. Thank you for listening.

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said on Friday, January 12th, 2018

This debate really highlights how far we have come.  I remember as a kid, the purpose of using a net was to ensure you "got" the fish.  Maybe we have gone full circle.  In keeping with my upbringing, I only take a net, and use a net, when I plan on keeping fish, otherwise, I prefer to go netless (it's very liberating).  I also do my best not to harm fish I plan to release.  I assess the situation and react to the fishes actions.  Net or no net, unfortunately, there is always a chance the fish may be harmed.  I think all of us will agree some releases go extremely well, some not so well.  It depends a lot on the circumstances and conditions under which the fish was hooked.  

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said on Friday, January 12th, 2018

Ditto what dehavenphoto said.

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said on Friday, January 12th, 2018

I've been fishing without a net, and using the Ketchum Release exclusively, for well over 10 years. It reduces trout mortality since it eliminates any handling of the trout, and especially removing it from the water. Photographs must be sacrificed, but does one's ego really need the satisfaction of a photo record of every fish caught? The Fall 2011 issue of TU's quarterly "Trout" had a memorable article, "At What Price Glory", by Erin Block, on this very subject. The time spent stressing and landing a fish should be minimized, and is dependent upon the angler and his willingness to lose the fish. I've listened to any number of accounts of "battles", tens of minutes in duration, spent fighting a large trout, and shown as proof a photograph of the fish placed into the grass next to the angler's rod for scale - prior to being "released". 

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said on Friday, January 12th, 2018

My 2cents -  properly remove the hook from the any fish. A barbed hook is harder to remove then a nonbarbed hook depending on where is was hooked. We kown that some fishermen just rip the the hook out no matter where the fish is hooked. this does more harm then net or hands. To net or use hands should be left up to the fishermen. Most fishermen release there fish with as little harm to the fish as possible. Happy fishing and be safe.

 

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said on Friday, January 12th, 2018

I am a firm believer in the use of a net, and I use one for all my trout fishing both wading and float fishing.  I favor the rubber net material and am especially fond of the clear "ghost" net material which seems to bother fish less. There are many mitigating factors pertaining to trout survival from being caught and released. One of the most important is the interval, the amount time, between hooking and releasing the fish.  The utiization of a net will significantly shorten this interval as will the use of a release tool and de-barbing the hook.  Keeping the hooking to release interval short diminishes the amount of stress and lactic acid build up and significantly improves rates of survival. Regarding skin damage from net material, I've spoken with a number of fisheries biologists about the potential damage to the slime from net material, and NONE of them believe this is a factor in survival.  In common electrofishing techniques used to gather population data, fish are shocked and netted with large, coarse dip nets, often a couple of times in a two-day period, and according to the fisheries biologists who do this type of work there are no reports of fish suffering from fungus infections as a result.  Another important factor in recovery is the impact of water temperature.  It takes much longer for a trout to recover in warm water, temps above 60.  Again, my biologist friends said that when releasing fish in warmer water, you really must hold the trout facing into swift moving water until the fish has regained its equilibrium.  So, while it seems counter intuitive, releasing a trout too quickly can actually increase mortality rates.   We should remember, too, that no matter what we do, there is going to be some mortality result from our catch-and-release fishing, and even if we left them all alone and never fished for them, Mother Nature is harsh, and she will kill, naturally, as much as 30 percent of the population.  

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said on Saturday, January 13th, 2018

I like to use a rubber landing net and barbless hooks. Net the fish, keep the net in the water, the fish rubs it's nose against the net and 4 out of 5 fish leave the hook in the net. Gently turn the net over and the fish is released.

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