Larry's Fishing Hole


One of the most frustrating things may not be getting a fish to bite, but getting that fish in the boat once you have caught it.
Landing a fish and not losing it can mean winning for the tournament fisherman, and for the sports angler, how well you land a fish can affect you physically. We recall times a fish came unhooked at the boat, or the time I had a bass hooked with one treble of a crankbait and the other in my finger, making us realize the importance for care when landing fish.
It is true, bass are easier to land than fish with teeth like the muskie, pike or walleye, because you can grab them by the lip. Bass may chafe your thumb from the roughness in the mouth but they do not have sharp dorsal spines like catfish or sharp gill plates like walleye nor do they raise all the spines on their fins like panfish.
Once hooked, the key to landing a fish is to properly play it hard enough to get it to the boat, but not so hard that you try to land it before it has tired some. Other concerns when in a boat are to avoid letting the fish get tangled in objects such as the outboard or trolling motor.
Here are some ways to land a fish from a boat:
- Swing it aboard, a way often used by Pro Anglers. This method works if you have a stout rod, if the fish is hooked well and if the fish only weighs a few pounds.
- Lipping a bass or large crappie- once it has tired, grab your line in one hand to control fish movement, lay down rod and place your thumb in the mouth and fold your index finger under the jaw and lift aboard. Once you have lipped a fish, avoid bending the jaw back too far as this can injure the jaw affecting recovery or making it difficult to feed.
- By the Gills- which works on larger fish with teeth by placing finger into front part of the gill, between the actual gill and the gill plate being careful not to injure the fish.
- Or Net the fish which may be the best way - I will not attempt to describe all the different nets on the market but using a long-handled net (telescoping handles best for storage) with woven mesh rather than knotted mesh of hard line to prevent slime removal.
If you fish from shore, guide the fish into shallow water where you can lip it, use a fish grabber or net it with a "D" shaped net with flat front for getting under the fish better.
There is more to netting a fish than just scooping it out of the water but more of a two-step process. Common mistake are stabbing at the water too quickly and knocking it loose or even totally missing the fish or chasing a fish around with a net, trying to reach too far or attempting to land before it has tired some. The proper way is to tire the fish some and smoothly lower the net into the water about half way and lead the fish head first into the net and raise the net and fish out of the water. This way if the fish make a surge, it will dive into the net, not away. Use care if you are using lures with multi treble hooks, they may become entangled in net.
As you bring the fish near, look to determine how well it is hooked and the location of the hooks. If the hook is in the upper jaw, it is safe to land by lipping. If the hooks are in the side of the mouth or in lower jaw, grab it on one side of the mouth away from the hook. If you are using lures with two or more treble hooks such as crankbaits and topwater lure, the fish may have a mouth full of hooks and you should consider using a net or a fish grabber. Use care with pliers to unhook the fish and if deeply hooked or in gills, just cut the line and leave the hook.
For your safety, be aware of the tension you may put on your line such as when you have a sharp bend in your rod. This is when a lure can pull free and bury the hooks in you or your partner. Also use caution when netting a lightly hooked fish which can thrash and sling a lure giving you little time to duck.
There are many ways to land a fish and they all require attention, safety and care for the fish and recovery of your lure. Practice and master these techniques and you will reduce the chance of accidents or injury. And best of all, you never have to tell about the big one that got away.
TIP: Put shrink tubing on net handle to avoid scratching or banging the boat and also to eliminate the fish alarming metallic flash.
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