Choosing a landing net for the catch and release fisherman on foot
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a landing to suit the catch and release fisherman on foot, they can include:
- Head size, handle length and portability
- Overall weight
- Fish friendly net materials
- Weighing scales within the handle
- Longevity and manufacturer’s warranty
Landing net head size, handle length and portability
These three attributes of a landing net work together hand in hand. Many people will claim the bigger the better, now there is definitely some truth in this as a landing net with a large head size and a long handle will almost always make landing fish a lot easier than using a landing net with a small head size and a short handle. However, a big net can be cumbersome to carry and an absolute nightmare when making your way through thick scrub alongside rivers or lakes turning your net into an annoying necessity rather than a trusty companion. The smaller the net is the easier it is to carry, but the down side is that it makes it harder to net your fish (especially when solo fishing) and losing fish at your feet can occur. The decision on how small to go (or if you are going to choose a large but collapsible net) can be dictated by the type of terrain you most frequently fish. If most of your fishing is in open spaces then a medium to large net with a good attachment system is probably fine, but if you are working your way through thick bush then you'll probably want to look at going smaller, or look at a good collapsible net. I prefer to use a short handle small head size net because I like to fish the really hard to access places, continually pushing through thick bush and scrub naturally makes a small net far easier to carry.
If you do choose to go for a small net you will find this will improve you netting skills. When bringing in fish quickly to increase catch and release success they will naturally still have energy to try and evade you right till the end, especially when they see you coming at them with a net. This means you have to really focus on the fish to anticipate his next move, repetitively landing fish like this will soon hone your skills.
Typical long handle large landing net
Typical short handle compact landing net
Overall landing net weight
This may not even play a factor for those who don’t stray far from their vehicle, holiday batch or what have you, but weight can be a major factor for long days, big walks up riverbeds, or multi-day hiking fishing trips when trying to keep overall pack weight down. Although some large landing nets can collapse quite small they can weigh considerably more than a small to medium size landing net and this can really be noticed after a full day's fishing. The material the net is constructed of will certainly play a role in the final weight, but most nets nowadays are made from lightweight materials so this is not as big of an issue as it used to be. The easiest test here is to simply pick it up and compare with other nets, if you think it will be too heavy for your needs, don't buy it. The best option to suit you will mostly depend on the type of terrain you most frequently fish and how far you stray. I often do multi-day fishing trips so a small and lightweight net is important, but more than anything I do a lot of fishing trips on my motorbike so a small lightweight net is far more convenient to pack on the bike.
Fish friendly landing net materials
Older style or cheap landing nets are often made from harsh knotted materials that can inflict injury to the fish and damage their outer mucus layer that protects them from bacteria and pathogens. Using these types of nets for catch and release can often be a pointless exercise as the fish can be severely damaged (even though they appear unharmed) as they swim off to die a slow death. Quality landing net suppliers such as McLean Angling offer knotless mesh or even better still micro mesh that are far gentler on the fish making this the preferred material for catch and release to ensure fish survival.
Weighing scales within the handle
I am yet to meet an angler that isn’t curious about the weight of each fish he or she catches. It is ultimately satisfying to watch the scales pull downwards confirming without dispute the weight of a big catch. Having scales built into the handle of a landing net is not only convenient in regards to minimising equipment carried, it also removes the extra process of mucking around with an external set of scales that prolongs the time before the fish can be released.
Longevity and manufacturer's warranty
There is not too much that can go wrong with a landing net, but if the netting gives way or the handle breaks while you’re on the water and you’re effectively without a net, it is only then you truly value how important a landing net is. Personally I don’t trust any cheap fishing product and won’t be swayed no matter what, especially when we are talking about the difference between a cheap fishing net and a quality fishing net is normally very little, it's kind of a no-brainer to get the quality net. The other bonus of course is buying a reputable brand net will cover you with a reliable warranty. I have experienced this first-hand myself. I purchased a McLean Angling landing net and was happy with it in all respects. About 11 months on and being used excessively almost every weekend I caught a 9 ½ pound brown but when giving it a quick weigh the scales were sticky and didn’t weigh that smoothly or accurately. I took them back to the fishing shop where I purchased them, they got on the phone to McLean Angling who arranged courier pickup, inspected the net, and agreed it wasn’t weighing quite right. The diagnosis was that this was most likely caused by knocks and bangs throughout their life and not an actual product fault, but even in light of this they replaced them with a brand new set when they were under no legal obligation to. Not only that, I had the new replacement net within 4 days, how's that for fantastic service! To me this demonstrates customer service to the highest level and an obvious benefit of buying a quality product from a reputable company. If you are in the market for a new net then there are a number of companies around the globe that produce quality nets, but personally I would look no further than McLean Angling, they have a wide range of quality nets followed up by great customer service, they score a 10/10 in my book.