Nets for Kayak Fishing: Do You Really Need One

Kayak Net

Kayak anglers will always find fishing nets to be necessary when they need one, and often in the way when they don’t need one. It didn’t take me long to realize having a quality landing net along was a good thing!

Yes, you should carry a net with you. Having a net will make landing and handling a fish safer for the fish itself, and also make it easier for you to release a fish safely without harm to yourself. A fishing net is a highly recommended accessory to have in a kayak.

Now that you are considering a fishing net might be something you should have along with you, here’s what you’ll need to know about carrying, and choosing a fishing net for your kayak and why.

A Fishing Net Can Save Your Hands

One of the chief reasons to have a net is to protect your hands when handling a fish. There are sizeable toothy fish like northern pike and walleye, which can cut up your fingers and hands down to small panfish with sharp fins that can puncture your skin.

Don’t get bitten!

Larger toothy fish pose a danger with their sharp teeth. A quick thrash here or there while you’re attempting to remove a deeply lodged hook can cause a severe injury to yourself. Embedded hooks are no fun, and over the years, I have had hooks catch me by surprise too. They have ruined my day with an early return to the truck when I would get a hook stuck into my finger.

A close friend of mine while fishing for trophy musky in Minnesota once had a musky tooth puncture him upon release. A few days later, after thinking he had the flu or a cold, he ended up in a hospital Emergency Room suffering from septic shock! He told me the doctor said had he gone another 24hrs without treatment, he would have been in serious trouble.

Don’t get fin poked!

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have had a sharp spine from a dorsal fin poke deep beneath my fingernail and make it almost impossible to tie fishing knots later in the day. Not only is it sore and annoying as the day goes by, but infections can also set in, and it hurts for days afterward.

Don’t get hooked!

Getting bit, punctured, or cut from a fish while it’s thrashing around are just a few issues to consider. The most significant injury to anglers landing a fish without a net is having a treble hook ripped into your hand. Fish are slippery to hold, and if you have a fish in one hand or on your lap and it begins thrashing, a hook can become deeply embedded in a split second.

Also, a large jig, spoon, or plug can come loose or be launched into the air by a flopping fish hooking you in the face or ears. Fortunately, I have never had a hook caught in my face or ear, although we’ve all seen those videos and photos of “piercings”!

My favorite fishing net!

I’ve used many nets over the years and by far the best net I’ve had in the kayak with me is a kayak specific landing net. I believe you’ll like it as well! You can check the pricing out on the Yakattack 12″ x 20″ hoop on Amazon.

Safely Landing and Releasing Your Fish

A fish’s slime coating is what protects it from infections and disease. Laying a fish on the ground, the deck or floor of your kayak can remove portions of this slime, leaving it exposed to infections. Being sure to wet your hands before handling a fish will help in protecting its slime coating.

Leaving your fish in the water in the net will also protect it because you won’t have to handle your catch more than necessary. Besides, there is a diminished chance you will injure it’s gills or possibly break its jaw by holding it up incorrectly like you see a lot of bass fishermen do.

Some fish like smaller trout you find in streams or creeks are more susceptible to injury due to handling than larger, more robust fish. Allowing the trout and smaller fish to remain in the net while you carefully remove a hook means less handling, and the fish is released safely back into it’s hiding hole for another day.

Choosing the Proper Size Fishing Net

When choosing a net, keep the average size of fish you are going to be fishing for in mind. There is no need for a massive net built for large musky if you are fishing mainly for smallmouth bass. But a landing net is one item where “Bigger is Better.” Choose a net that is at least 1.5 times as long as the typical fish you target and wide enough to accommodate the fish.

Larger and Wider Nets

Generally speaking, larger nets will also have deeper baskets for the fish to lay in and tend to stretch somewhat. Having a net that is too shallow for your needs and not long enough will have the fish flopping around and difficult to handle.

If a net isn’t wide enough, there is a good possibility you can lose your fish attempting to net it because a too small net doesn’t give you enough room to maneuver the fish. Then there is also the chance you’ll knock the hook loose with the net frame when reaching out to net it.

When a net is too large, it can get in the way and snag on other gear in the kayak while you’re trying to get it out of a holder or attempting to net your fish.

Net Handles

Handles are the next thing you want to consider. Short handle nets are easier to handle and move around in a kayak while longer handle nets can reach out further and make it easier to net your fish. But they also take up a bit more space and tend to get hung up on items in your kayak from time to time.

If you carry your net on the deck of your kayak a longer handle net may become entangled on your gear, especially if you fish from one of the newer pedal-powered kayaks.

Size your landing net to your fishing requirements, personal preferences, type of fishing, and remember it never hurts to size up a little!

What Net Material to Choose

My personal preference is to choose a rubber net material. Although rubber nets are a bit more expensive, they are better for the fish’s slime coating. You’ll find landing nets made of solid rubber and others that have a rubber coating on the net. Of course, the rubber net will cost more, it is of higher quality and will last longer, possibly a lifetime.

Two more reasons to choose a rubber material are they are far less prone to snagging on hooks and gear and they will hardly ever fray.

Cotton, nylon, and other synthetic nets are often way more abrasive than rubber nets and tend to remove or disturb the protective slime coating on the fish. They will also fray reasonably quickly and tend to catch hooks and snag at the worst possible moments.

Personally, I would highly recommend a quality rubber net.

Carrying Your Net on a Kayak

There are many ways to store a net where they are out of the way. I prefer to have mine attached to my crate behind me while others use bungee cords and strap them down where they can easily be reached. Rod holders can hold nets by their handles, and other anglers simply prefer to have their net laying out in front of them like in the video below.

Where you carry your net again is a matter of personal preference, your particular style of fishing, and the size and type of net you decide to purchase. Remember, there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it, and you can also find quite a few attachments and accessories to hold your gear out of the way.

The following bullet points are the primary considerations you should keep in mind when choosing or deciding whether you want to carry a fishing net along with you.

  • Your Safety
  • The Fishes Safety
  • Handling and Releasing
  • Type of Fishing You Do
  • Size of Net and Length of Handle
  • Which Net Material is Best
  • How You’ll Carry the net

You can also have more than one net. I routinely use a landing net for smaller trout made of a small wooden frame with a rubber net. It handles the fish well, keeps them contained, protects their protective slime coat, and they are easily released in a manageable net.

When I’m on a larger body of water targeting bass and northern pike, a larger rubber net for me is more suitable. But I would never use the larger net for small trout.

So in the end, choose the net which fits your style of fishing. Fits the species of fish being targeted, and fits your budget.

Related Article: How to Outfit a Kayak for Fishing: The Ultimate Guide

Have fun and be safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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