Why Salmon Are Lost in the Net


In my experience, most fish are lost in the first 20 seconds after hook-up, or right at the boat. I’ll go over some techniques that will help you cut down on lost fish right after hook-up in another segment.

If you think about all the fish you have seen lost at the boat, or the number of fish you have lost mere feet from the rim of your trusty net, don’t you think it would be wise to reconsider the whole method of bringing your prize aboard? Improper use of a fishing net could be one of the single most important contributors to improved salmon runs in recent years. (Tongue firmly in cheek). So many salmon, swimming free…

But before you put a “For Sale” sign on your net at the next garage sale, let’s figure out what is the cause of so many straightened hooks and broken leaders when your fish is alongside the boat. In a word, it is only one thing: ADRENALINE.

Adrenaline is the powerful drug that keeps us coming back again and again in pursuit of the giant salmon. Unfortuately, it often keeps us from thinking rationally and from doing all the things we should to execute a perfect landing. It is also surging through the salmon on the end of your line, helping it power through that last run in a desperate attempt to escape. With all this excitement (on your part) and panic (on the fish’s part) it is understandable why so many errors are made.

Before you get too hard on yourself, I’ve seen pro sports players who should know a thing or two about adrenaline make the same rookie mistakes as the rest of us. I’ve often joked that I would like to run my gear with no swivels, with just the lure tied to the end of the line, with no leader, so I could watch my clients try to wind the fish through the rod tip. (Believe me, in the excitement of the fight, they would).

The best advice I can offer is try to stay reasonably calm. Keep your net stacked under a pile of gear in the bow of the boat so it will take at least 10 minutes to get it ready. That way, the fish will have had time to tire out, and the fisherman will have had time to calm down!! Keep a reasonably tight line on the fish, but NEVER LIFT IT’S HEAD OUT OUT OF THE WATER. A fish weighs much more out of the water than in the water, so pulling upwards on the fish’s head increases the strain on your leader.

If I use a net to land a fish, I will often do a couple test runs first. I tell the angler to guide the fish toward the boat. I make a fake stab at the fish to see how much power it has. I warn the person on the rod to be ready for another run, so they don’t clamp down on the reel and hang on for dear life when the fish makes it’s last run. Often a seemingly tired fish will find one more burst of power when it sees something (the net) swooping down from above.

When the fish is dead tired, lead it head first into the net. I hold the bottom of the net bag in the crook of my forefinger and release the bag into the water as the fish slides in. Don’t let the net bag float freely in the water while you are waiting to net the fish. If the fish turns or dives and catches one of the hooks in it’s mouth in the mesh, you can say bye-bye fish. Make sure you leave at least eight feet of line between the rod tip and the fish. Guide the fish near the boat by lifting the rod, not cranking down on it ’til there’s only inches left.

By taking your time, going slowly, and remembering to take extra time by the boat, you will dramatically increase your netting success. ‘Til next time,

Tight lines!