Musky Fishing 101: Expert Tips for the Net Man
If you’ve fished for musky, you’ve likely fished with a terrible net man. All musky fishing trips come standard with a deep, wide landing net. And because these freshwater behemoths could likely squat a small Toyota and have a mouth full of sharps, I would recommend not leaving the dock without a net worthy of your target. As there are a number of quality nets on the market from Frabill, Drifter, StowMaster, Ranger, and Clam, your choice of net becomes a matter of preference vs practicality or design vs deck space.
Once you’ve decided on a net, the rest is cream cheese, right? Never, not with musky fishing. Netting a musky is far more complex than shoving the net down and coming up successful. Here are a few tips to make landing each musky successful for both you and your net man.
Angle of Approach
For all the net men out there, your job starts when muskies are brought boat side. It’s imperative to agree to the best possible netting scenario prior to launch as it will be too late when the fight ensues. Fish should be brought broadside to port or starboard, whichever has the clearest path. Never attempt to land a musky near the outboard or trolling motor unless you love tangled lines more than fishing. Both angler and net man must be ready to perform a prearranged dance to make sure your finale won’t be hindered by an unplanned mishap. Cleats, tackle, and rod holders can snake a net faster than Usain Bolt, so make sure your bag is unhindered before making the dip.
Control The Bag
This brings us to our second tip: controlling the bag. If you want to be a successful net man, it’s imperative that you control the slack in the bag. With your forehand, control the main position of the net while gathering the bag slack in the rear hand against the handle while you wait for your partner to bring in his musky. Once you begin your dunk, you can release the bag slack and let that toothy critter slide right in, issue free.
Control and Degree
Prior to the plunge, your net management skills become a useful tool. As a rule, never hold and plunge your net straight down in the water in an attempt to catch a forward-moving musky, you will only give it an opportunity to swerve to one side, dive down deep, or avoid you altogether. When it’s time to commit to the plunge, tip your net slightly toward the water with the bag held and plunge only half in as you release the bag, this will force the head of the musky to commit and easily allow you to tip the remaining body in as you bring your net back parallel to the surface. This method prevents escapes and most calamities. After the musky is safely stowed inside, it’s a great time to sit or step on the handle while the celebration begins.
If you are acting as your own net man, it’s important to understand the results of your pre-net movements. Prior to bringing your musky broadside, make sure you have enough line out to fight your fish with your rod tip held high at least 6-8ft of line out. Now you can bring your fish closer by lifting up your rod, creating an easier scenario for netting. For a solo fishing trip, it’s always best to have your net extended and ready with the bag positioned to not get tangled. The same tilted net plunge with the rod held high will allow you to easily lead your musky to the direction of your extended net with minimal effort.
Always, when your musky is in the net, immediately release more line and move your rod/reel away. A taut line will only increase musky bucking and tangling in the net. Once you release all tension, your fish will likely calm for safer handling. Remember, never attempt to remove a musky from the net with a bait still connected, it can cause disaster. Always remove all hooks and lure from the fish and net and set them aside before photo and release.
Though these tips may sound simple, a bit of pregame strategizing can lead to a much easier safe netting situation. Following these helpful hints will help you avoid pesky net man arguments or instructions after your partner has missed your fish and given it an opportunity to loosen its hooks and swim away.