Using a net is one of the most common ways to land fish in fresh water, but is not as common in salt water. Nets come in many sizes and shapes for different kinds of fishing and most fishing boats will have one in it. Most nets are made of nylon cord netting. Some have handles and some hang on ropes, but all are made to hold the fish while taking it out of the water. There are also special kinds of nets made of rubber to reduce the chance of injuring the fish.
A landing net.
Good Things about Nets
Using a landing net makes it much easier to land a fish. The fish is securely held in place while you bring it in, and you can scoop up the fish without having to touch it. Nets even make hook removal easier because the fish is not able to move around as much in the net.
If you're fishing with another person, that person can get the net while you fight the fish and be ready to net it as soon as you get it in. There's less chance the fish will shake off the hook right at the boat because you can net the fish underwater. And you can land the fish faster with a net than you can with your hand, and avoid wearing it out as much, which is better for the fish.
As a fish fights, lactic acid builds up in its body. The longer it fights the more the acid builds up. If too much of it is produced, the fish will not be able to survive when it's released; so shorter fights are better for the fish.
A fish can't back up very fast so you should always net it headfirst. The person fighting the fish can lead it into the net if the netter holds the net underwater. Trying to scoop up a fish in a net, especially if chasing it from behind, is a good way to lose it.
When using a circular net from a bridge or pier, you should have it just under the surface of the water. Lead the fish over the net headfirst, then raise the net quickly. You can then pull the fish up without taking a chance it will break your line or come unhooked as you lift it. It's much easier to land a fish this way if you have someone helping you do it.
Bad Things about Nets
Hooks tangle in nets and can be difficult to remove. A fish that twists and turns as it fights can tangle the hook as it wraps the net around its body, making it difficult to remove both the fish and the hook. That means more chance of getting a hook in your hand as you unwrap the fish and try to untangle the hook.
Plugs with treble hooks are especially apt to tangle in the net. To avoid tangles, if the fish is small enough, you can raise the fish with the line while holding the net under it. For bigger fish, a good option is a special rubber net made to help prevent the hooks from tangling.
Nets remove the protective slime from a fish while landing it, especially when the fish struggles. Nylon nets are worse at damaging the slime on fish than are rubber nets, which are more popular for catch and release. But in general, if you plan on releasing the fish, you probably shouldn't use a net to land it for its own safety.
When fighting a strong or big fish it's easy to lose it while trying to net it. Some ways you can lose a fish at the net include:
A fish can swim under the net and fray your line on the net.
The hook can get tangled on the outside of the net and the fish can pull off.
A fish can see the net and make a strong run and break your line.
You can touch the fish with the net and make it run hard and pull off.
A fish can tear an old net and go through it.
A fish can jump over the net and throw your hook.
If a partner is trying to net the fish for you and one of these things happens, it's real easy to blame your partner. But losing a fish at the net happens and there's nothing you or your partner can do about it sometimes.