When you’re battling a fish, your attention naturally focuses on keeping it hooked and working it to the boat or shoreline. Ideally, that’s when your fishing partner stops fishing, picks up the landing net and stands close by, taking in the show and waiting to get in on the action. Meet the net man, arguably the most important, but overlooked, person once a fish is on the line.
Of course, net men can also be women or youngsters—it only matters that they’re willing and able to get the job done and net the fish. Many a time, they might also coach us by saying things like “Keep your rod tip up” or “You’re almost there.” Still other times, they might fire us up and get our adrenaline flowing by hollering “Look at the size of that fish!” or “It’s a monster!”
But it’s at the moment of truth, when the fish is topside and just about to start thrashing uncontrollably, that net men truly go into action. They’ll lean way out over the gunnel, contort themselves into strange positions and, if they’re really working hard, let out a grunt or two—whatever it takes to get the fish in the net.
Not all net men are created equal, though. The best in the game know exactly when to slip the net into the water and scoop up the fish. Their approach is smooth and swift, and they don’t chase the fish. They know if it’s ready to come into the boat, or if it needs to take another run. As a result, you’ll never see a fish knocked on the head with the net, or scared into a run that breaks the line. So, to all the seasoned net men out there, thank you—without your efforts, there’d be a lot more stories about the ones that got away.
Regina, Saskatchewan, contributor Mike Hungle often enjoys netting fish as much as he does catching them.