If you are a hook and cook’em person, it doesn’t much matter to the fish what type of landing net you use. But if you are a catch and release angler, you need a rubber net.
Much of the reason we have rules about fishing with artificial flies, lures and barb-less hooks is to protect fish and increase their chances of survival after release. These things are a waste of time and effort if fish are dropped on the rocks, dragged through the mud or have fingers jammed in their gills.
There are tons of new fishing gear available now that was not around when we learned to fish with our Grandfathers. Much of that gear may or may not be useful or even necessary, but everyone should have a rubber landing net. If for no other reason, the smooth rubber netting protects the fish.
Less Stress = Higher Survival
By now, everyone should know that a fish’s skin is protected by mucus. The “slime” helps keep parasites, bacteria and fungus from growing. The thin knotted string and nylon net bags remove a lot of slime. Smooth rubber nets remove much less. So, a rubber net puts less stress on a fish and increases their chances of survival after being caught.
Another reason you should use a rubber net is to save time. Many of us fish with more than one hook as droppers or as tags. After a fish is netted, the second hook almost always gets tangled in the net. It takes time to untangle the mess, which means it takes longer to release the fish and it takes longer for you to start fishing again. This is a big problem with string and nylon net bags, but is not a big problem with a rubber net. If there is one thing I have learned from spending time with my fishing buddy/coach, the professionals spend less time messing around with gear and more time fishing.
Sure the rubber nets cost a little more, but they are better for the fish because they are easier on the skin and fish are released faster and you can get back after the next fish faster. And unless you have a habit of losing or breaking nets, a rubber net will last for many years.
I am a guy that has both lost and broken landing nets. I don’t know how I lost a net, but I did. My first net was given to me by a friend who found it while we were fishing. I thought I treated it well, but guess that net was still looking for someone else. After I lost it, I bought a cheap net at the local store just to get by. I had been spoiled by the rubber net and the replacement was terrible. It was so hard to take fish out of the net, I tended not to use it at all.
Since my fishing buddy always uses a rubber Measure Net, I soon bought a replacement net bag for myself. When it arrive, I simply cut the cheap nylon net bag away from the net frame and zipped the new replacement net bag around the frame.
After about a year, I broke that net frame when I slipped down a bank and fell on it. I limped into the local store just to get another cheap net frame. I simply removed the replacement net bag and zipped the replacement net bag around the frame. This time I got a metal frame instead of wood. It should last longer, but it probably won’t be better for my backside if/when I fall on it again.
How Measure Net Works
I don’t know if they measure net folks got it right on the first try or not, but the zero line is in the middle, so you you don’t waste time and effort trying to maneuver the fish to make it line up perfectly at one end or the other. Just add the number at the head to the number at the tail for the total length. The fish in the photo (above) was an 18 inch rainbow trout that just happened to line up with both head and tail at 9 inches when we snapped the photo.
Taking Photos Stress Fish
How many times have you over-handled a fish just to take a measurement? If you, your friends or the law care about the size of fish you catch, I suggest a measure net.
Again, none of this matters if you plan on keeping the fish, but if the fish is to be released, the extra handling and time out of the water stresses them more. The measure net allows you to measure the fish without having to touch it. Most of the time, we are able to net a fish, unhook it and release it without ever having to touch the fish. You can even take photos of the fish while it is still in the net.
Also, if a fish is hooked deep, you may need to get a good grip on the fish to remove the hook. It is better for a fish to be handled through the rubber net than by your hands or gloves. Simply grip the fish from the outside while it is in the net.
So, if you are still using an old string or nylon net bag, do yourself a favor and get a rubber net. The fish and everyone else that fishes will thank you.