What is better? Hand or net?

Habits and trends go back and forth, like waves rolling over a lake. You always try to improve; it is in our human nature to seek progress. This applies just as much to fishing as it does to all other things in life.

By doing so, you experiment, explore and evaluate. And I’ve came to a quite shocking discovery… In more than 99% of the fish caught, I didn’t use a landing net… Here’s why!

For the record, I still have a landing net standby. And yes, when I fish a tournament, I do use a landing net. The reasons make perfect sense and are completely logical in my opinion, as a landing net is the fastest and most secure way to… secure a fish! With high stakes, you don’t want to risk losing a fish that counts turn the odds in your favor during a big international tournament.

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This is not a right or wrong article, only some insights in what I’ve learned and why I tend to go back to the old school hand landing of pike instead of netting them… Even the trophy fish! I still think a landing net is a good, viable way to land a fish and I highly recommend doing so. Especially if that means people will stop using those medieval torturing devices like a lip gripper!

So why did I switch to landing a fish by hand almost all the time? A few things actually. Let’s dive in:

  1. You need to grab them by the jaw anyway to unhook them!
  2. The infamous death-roll a.k.a. crocodile roll
  3. No risk of loose trebles hooking the net with the fish still outside the net
  4. Most importantly: less damage to the fish!

Obviously, 3 can be avoided with some experience but I’ve seen pro’s make this mistake when they net enough fish over time. Sometimes it is just bad luck, it is what you get when you hold a big net close to a thrashing fish with a loose treble on a stinger that flies around.

The death roll is just a pain in the *ss with unhooking and takes up so much time. It wrecks your landing net, but it can also damage the fish. Which comes to the most important part, as I believe hand landing a pike damages them less than with a net. Plus, you need to open their jaw anyway by holding them by the jaw (the gillplate, NOT the gills as some call it which is a false statement).

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A net is a good way to let them rest, especially when dealing with a triple strike!

Is a landing net obsolete? Definitely not! I often use it to let a fish rest after I unhooked it. The procedure goes as follows: I land the fish by hand, unhook it, let it rest in the water by putting it in the landing net. I sort my stuff, if needed get the camera ready, take a few snaps and statistics and release it.

In some cases, landing with a net is more secure. For instance, very windy conditions or when you are trolling and you need to save time. In all cases, let the fish rest in the net in the water. Don’t lift it out of the water with the net, that puts unnecessary pressure on the fins and tears them which is not a pretty sight.

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Aqua Guard gloves to keep your hands in shape! 

To keep my hands safe (to some degree, I’ve had my share of hooks in my hands over the years, even with the fish in a landing net) I always use the Savage Aqua Guard gloves to protect me from cuts and teeth. It gives you a first layer of protection while still have the full feeling and control of your fingers. It doesn’t make you bullet proof but it saves your hands a ton of trouble!