Photo by Bill Linder

Attempting to net a fishing buddy’s catch can be a pressure-packed affair—bottom of the ninth, bases loaded sort of pressure. Do it correctly and you go home the hero. Mess it up and you’ll be wearing the goat horns. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As is the case with most fishing-related exploits, a bit of practical advice followed by some practice can have you bailing fish over the rail in no time.

1. DON’T put the net in the water until the moment you intend to net a fish. Many anglers mistakenly position the net in the water and attempt to fight the fish toward it. Instead, keep the net ready and net the fish wherever it takes you, only putting the bag near the water just before you actually scoop the fish.

2. DON’T reach, because only bad things will happen. Wait until you can comfortably scoop. If the fish swims away at the last second, you’ll have a little wiggle room to reel it back in. If you consistently need to reach for fish, consider getting a net with a longer or telescoping handle.

3. DO purchase a net with a hoop at least double or, realistically, triple the size of the fish you are going to be netting. The last thing you want to do when battling a trophy fish boatside is to have to thread a needle.

4. DO pull up. It sounds funny, but a major mistake is simply not pulling up and trapping the fish in the bottom of the bag once you get it in the net. Species such as steelhead or smallmouth are notorious for swimming out of a net, but all species will do so if given the chance.

5. DO get a net that has holes as big as you can get away with for the species that you are fishing. This will provide much less drag in the water and make unhooking the fish easier once you do get it in the boat.

7. DO rubberize your net. Spray-on rubber is a great way to give a little more life to your treated net bag, and it will help prevent hooks from getting snarled. This quick fix works best with treated bags made from a non-nylon material.