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Best Fishing Nets: Making Sure You Land The Big Ones

Last Updated: October 23rd, 2020
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Hooking and fighting are only the first steps in catching a fish - landing them is the difference between a memorable morning and the one that got away.

Fishing nets are pretty much essential tools for avid anglers. They allow you to scoop a fish from the water much easier than you can with your bare hands.

And when fitted with rubber mesh, they’re better for fish than bare hands, too!

If you’re looking for a the best fishing net, we’d like to help, and from fly anglers to kayakers, Jon boats to center consoles, we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find a thorough buying guide, as well as reviews of some of our favorite nets.

Quick glance at the best fishing nets:

Related: Best Fishing Pliers, Best Hook Remover,

Best Fishing Nets Reviewed

Sunshine Fishing Fly Fishing Landing Net--Best Wading Net

Handle material: laminate bamboo and hardwood

Size: 9.5” x 16” x 10”

Mesh material: rubber

Hoop shape: rounded teardrop, squared-teardrop, and long oval

Fly anglers know that a good landing net is essential. It needs to be easy to carry, quick to use, and gentle on trout.

Sunshine Fishing delivers on all fronts, offering what I consider the best wading net currently available for fly anglers.

Constructed of laminated bamboo and hardwood, it offers roughly 9 inches of reach and three hoop shapes: a rounded teardrop, a squared-off teardrop, and a longer oval. All three provide roughly 10 inches of width and 16 inches of length--plenty of space for even a monster.

Two mesh sizes are available for the roundest of the hoop styles, and if you’re a fan of micro-mesh, this is the way to go.

All Sunshine Fishing landing nets employ rubber mesh, and the tout you’ll release will thank you!

These nets offer a magnetic lanyard system to keep this important gear where it’s supposed to be. And if you do manage to drop it, it floats!

If there’s any improvement to be made, it’d be a slightly deeper mesh for really big trout.

If you’re a fly angler or a kayak/canoe fisherman, it’s hard to go wrong with the net.

Pros:

  • Very strong handle
  • Awesome rubber mesh available in a micro-size for smaller trout
  • Excellent choice of hoop shapes
  • Fantastic lanyard system

Cons:

  • Mesh could be a touch deeper for really big trout

Wakeman Fishing Retractable Rubber Landing Net--Best Budget Landing Net

Handle material: retractable aluminum

Size: 20” x” 19” x 17”

Mesh material: rubber

Hoop shape: round

Wakeman fishing retractable landing net is a great buy, offering the features serious anglers are looking for in a landing net.

Built with a 35” retractable aluminum handle, fully extended, it gives you 56” inches of reach to the outer edge of the hoop. Retracted, the total length shrinks to just 35”, making it pretty easy to stow on larger boats.

Its flat-bottomed net is 17 inches deep, providing plenty of space for big fish. If you don’t have much experience with landing nets, you may not realize just how big this product is--expect no trouble with even the baddest largemouth nature can throw at you. And big reds--up to 3 feet and 40 to 50 pounds--won’t break its mesh, hoop, handle, or yoke!

That’s impressive, and if I’m after cats, pike, bass, stripers, reds, or pretty much anything sized for a landing net, you can bet that the Wakeman is getting a second look from me.

Pros:

  • Very strong, very light handle
  • Awesome rubber mesh that’s deep enough for big fish
  • Excellent hoop size for large fish
  • Retractable handle provides great storage options
  • Plenty of reach for larger boats

Cons:

  • ?

Frabill 3058 Sportsman

Handle material: fixed aluminum

Size: 17” x 19”

Mesh material: rubber

Hoop shape: round

For no-nonsense anglers, tough and durable may be the most important qualities in a landing net. And if you’ve ever had retractable or folding nets fail on you while you’re on the water, you know the value of a simple, fixed handle design.

Frabill’s 3058 Sportsman is a simple, durable, well-designed landing net for anglers who have the space on their boats. With a 36-inch aluminum handle, you get 55 inches of reach, plenty for tall gunnels and larger boats.

The 3058 features a ⅜-inch rubber mesh that stretches under load, providing room for big, bad fish like pike, largemouth, and reds.

The only real downside to this otherwise awesome net is that the rubber is dark, allowing fish a better view of their impending doom and making them a bit harder to land.

Pros:

  • Very strong, very light handle
  • Nice rubber mesh that’s deep enough for big fish
  • Excellent hoop size for large fish
  • Plenty of reach for larger boats

Cons:

  • Dark mesh can spook fish

EGO S1 Genesis Landing Net--Best Fixed Landing Net

Handle material: fixed aluminum

Size: 19” x 21”

Mesh material: rubber

Hoop shape: squared teardrop

EGO’s S1 Genesis is a very, very good landing net for anglers who have storage space and want to keep it simple.

Offering a 31-inch fixed aluminum handle and a big-mouthed hoop, it provides plenty of reach and lots of space to land big fish. With fully 50 inches of maximum reach, it makes landing mean fish a breeze.

Available in an array of mesh materials, I recommend the clear rubber model as it’s less likely to spook fish and cause trouble landing them. And of course, I won’t recommend the nylon models at all, as they simply do too much damage to delicate fish.

This net is deep enough for big, bad reds, pike, and anything else you’d use a landing net on.

Tough, durable, and no-nonsense, the EGO S1 Genesis also floats, making it virtually impossible to lose on the water.

Pros:

  • Very strong, very light handle
  • Awesome rubber mesh that’s deep enough for big fish
  • Excellent hoop size for large fish
  • Plenty of reach for larger boats
  • Floats!

Cons:

  • ?

EGO S2 Slider Fishing Net--Best Retractable Landing Net

Handle material: fixed aluminum

Size: 19” x 21”

Mesh material: rubber

Hoop shape: squared teardrop

Big boats and tall piers demand long handles, and the EGO S2 Slider doesn’t disappoint!

Designed with a long aluminum handle, it telescopes out to an incredible 108 inches, sliding down to a more storable 48 inches. When reach is critical, there’s no replacement for a long handle, and even at full length, this landing net can take 30 pounds of weight!

The hoop is the same squared teardrop shape as the S1, as is the excellent clear rubber mesh. Expect this net to be large enough for the big ones!

For big boats with high gunnels, there’s simply no substitute.

Pros:

  • Very strong, very light handle
  • Excellent reach
  • Awesome rubber mesh that’s deep enough for big fish
  • Excellent hoop size for large fish
  • Ideal reach for larger boats
  • Slides down to 48 inches of handle

Cons:

  • ?

What We Consider When Selecting The Best Fishing Net

Handle Length

Reach is important with a landing net, and the higher the gunnel on your boat--or the farther the reach to fish from a pier, for instance--the longer the handle on your landing net.

But length when you don’t need it is a problem, and the right handle length for a Jon boat or kayak isn’t ideal for a center console with a few feet of gunnel between you and the water.

And one thing is always true for a landing net: the longer the handle, the more difficult it is to store.

If you need a long-handled landing net, and storage space is limited, look for one with a reliable system that allows the handle to telescope and collapse. But if you have plenty of space for a fixed-handle, this design is almost always stronger and more durable in the long run.

For canoes, kayaks, Jon boats, and situations where a long handle is too much, look for a short landing net.

Handle material

Many different handle materials are used to construct landing nets, and the best are strong, stiff, and durable.

  • Aluminum is the most common choice as it offers a winning combination of strength, stiffness, light weight, and corrosion resistance.
  • Fiberglass is heavier than aluminum, but very, very strong.
  • Wood - especially wooden laminate--is a traditional choice that works very well on short landing nets.

Hoop size and shape

I look for a landing net with a hoop size appropriate for the species I’m after, erring on the side of too big rather than too small.

I also prefer wider hoops or squared-off teardrop shapes, as I find that this provides a bit more space to get a struggling fish into my landing net.

Mesh material

Three mesh materials are common, but only one really protects the fish you catch. In contrast to nylon, coated nylon, and knotless nylon, only rubber mesh minimizes handling time and scale/mucous damage.

Nylon is tough material, and it can really take a beating--but it’s also a bit rough on your fish. Especially for catch and release, this isn’t a great choice for more delicate species.

Sometimes coated to reduce its propensity to damage delicate scales, the only real drawback of nylon for big, tough bruisers is how easily sharp hooks end up embedded in it--and just how hard they can be to remove without damaging the mesh!

And coated or not, nylon landing nets increase handling time in a recent study of catch and release angling.

“[E]xtended handling times were noted for several mesh types (i.e., knotless nylon micromesh and rubber‐coated nylon mesh) relative to bare wet hands because of hook entanglement in the netting material. However, using bare wet hands to land Brook Trout resulted in higher odds of the fish being dropped into the bottom of the boat. We concluded that the large, knotless rubber mesh was the least damaging to Brook Trout.”

Rubber mesh is increasingly common, especially for catch and release fly anglers.

The rubber is gentle on the scales and gill plates and helps to keep trout in tip-top shape. It’s also the best at preserving the mucous coating on fish, keeping them healthy and happy as you return them to the water.

It’s also really hard--I won’t say impossible!--to snag a hook in rubber mesh, making them easy to use and reducing handling time.

Knotless mesh designs are meant to be ultra-smooth, forgoing the usual knotted nylon mesh designs in an effort to spare more fish. And while the advertising hype suggests that they’re good for the fish, unfortunately, that’s far from the case.

As the Chinook Observer reports, “Knotless nylon mesh had the highest frequency of scale loss. Similar in frequency for scale loss was bare hands and rubber coated nylon mesh.

The knotless nylon mesh most frequently caused mucous loss, about 1.5 times the loss of bare hands.”

Knotless mesh also attracts hooks like a magnet, increasing handling time substantially.

We will only recommend rubber mesh landing nets in an effort to protect the sport we love for future generations.

Final Thoughts

A quality landing net does more than help you catch fish--it helps preserve the future of the sport for our children and grandchildren.

And while there’s no “best” fishing net, but rather the one that’s best for you and your fishing needs, a good pick will be strong, durable, and gentle on your fish.

If this article has helped you find the right fishing net, we’d love to hear from you.

Please leave a comment below!

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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