Solo netting tips and tricks?

KaiChung

Almost A Member
Aug 10, 2009
236
298
Newcastle/WA/USA
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Kai
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Boston Whaler Conquest 28.5
So I tend to go solo a lot and when there's a big fish on, it's usually a cluster with the net. My go-to plan so far is to have everything set up including a net with the downrigger clip holding the net in so it doesn't flow into the fish as the boat is trolling. I spend a lot of time playing the fish so it's nice and tired before I even try to net. I also pull the throttle to the lowest position while still going forward. Then when it's time, I'll bring the fish to the starboard side, where I'm holding the net in the water with my left hand, and pull the fish in with the rod with my right hand. I work my right hand up the rod since if I'm holding it at the reel, I can't get the control or proper angle. Then if everything goes well, I'm able to pull the fish into the waiting net.

Despite this, I still struggle. Many bigger fish continue to stay deep and it's hard to pull them to the surface into the net. I'm constantly going up and down the rod as the fish takes line but I'm worried if I tighten the drag, the fish will break off.

Any tips from other solo fishermen out there?
 
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Salmon King

I Should Upgrade My Account
Mar 29, 2013
1,614
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Everett, WA, USA
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Tim
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Salmon King 21' Custom Pilothouse
Many may disagree, but I fight fish with the boat in neutral. Once the fish hits, I get the tension out, make sure it’s tight, then put it in neutral and give it a turn toward the side the fish hit on. This turns the boat and I usually can play the fish to the side and not straight back over the motor.

Kings like to charge the boat, so be quick on the retrieve if there is any slack.

if in neutral, it is so much easier to net. Tire the fish, bring it alongside and a quick dip of the net, pull the fish over the hoop (think basketball) and it’s over.
 
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EJ Swanny

Three Generations of Uff-Dah
Nov 30, 2010
2,868
1,658
Redondo/WA
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Erik
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"Riley-J" 2006 21' Proline Tourney
Loosen drag. Tire that thing out. They are cold blooded, so once the energy is expended they are shot. I would use a shorter rod, and long handle net.

A big boy, I would put in neutral (depending on current). Obviously, one of the most important things is..........while fighting a fish alone, be very aware of your surroundings, where you're drifting, where you're motoring. It's amazing how we can quickly lose track of our headings when distracted. Good-luck all
 
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ledbed6b

I Should Upgrade My Account
Jun 21, 2010
1,813
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Shoreline WA
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Eli
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Parker 2320
I solo fish a ton, here's my system:

  • Get a longer handle net, you can almost joust with mine, but I like having the extra length to get past my bracket
  • I have an iTroll, so when I hook a fish it stays in gear, and at the troll throttle setting, but I have a wireless fob that can send a signal to dump my kicker to idle or back to wherever the throttle is set.
  • What I do is when the fishing is running away, kicker at idle, when the fish is getting close or running to the boat I kick the throttle back on with a click of the fob, and then just as I net it I go to idle and the fish glides right in.
  • Practice, if I'm on the boat with other people and I have a non-keeper fish, I'll still practice my solo technique
  • Also no cleats, rod holders, buckets, other shit to catch the net or impede my mobility.
  • Finally, fish a lot, practice makes perfect.
 
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punted coho

Member
Jan 29, 2013
498
596
buckley wa
Name
josh
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Yes
I net a lot of fish solo while fishing with my wife and toddler. My technique, which works well for me is to have the net within reach (grab it while the fish is making a run or something) reel that thing all the way till swivel almost hits the eye with the tip down by the water and when the fish is ready thumb the spool and pull the fish to you with rod in right hand, net handle tucked under left armpit and scoop. Sometimes I’ll steer into the fish with my foot, depends which boat I’m in. Flip the reel open, set rod in a holder and pull fish in the boat. It’s simpler than it sounds, I’ve scooped a lot of fish this way. I don’t usually put the boat in neutral unless it’s a hog but I’ll drop it down to an idle.
 
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Navanax

Almost A Member
Mar 26, 2009
169
9
Whidbey Island
Name
Ken
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16' C-Dory, Red Snapper
Like KaiChung, downrigger is port side, kicker starboard, fish landed starboard side. Come tight on fish and turn boat to get fish on starboard side. Netting in idle is important as I net with my left hand. Long handle net, ready with bag over the side and handle resting in cockpit. Get them tired, take it easy. My nemesis was (is?) getting too excited and hooking a cleat or any number of other things with the net.
 
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KimH

Someday I'll live the dream.
Mar 4, 2009
2,824
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Tacoma/Westport WA/USA
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Kim
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28' Farallon Walkaround "Paragon"
Silvers a lot the time I usually leave it in gear, The size they are now in the ocean if you're using 40lb leader material or greater to get better action on a hoochie or spoon you can lift the things over without netting.

Kings...the boat is out of gear but I do wait till I'm good and tight with the line as I'm walking forward into the cabin to stop the autopilot and take it out of gear. I keep forgetting to put the autopilot remote in my pocket.

I use a long rod and knucklebuster with no problem but drifting probably helps that and I do have to get the flasher fairly close. No sliding up the rod et cetera. Net handle isn't too long as it just gets unwieldy. Also I don't like the real deep nets. I think they're a pain in the butt.
 
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Redneck75

Been Around A While
Jul 23, 2006
334
4
Santa, ID
Name
Mike
Boat
in between boats
I used to use a long-handled net (8' handle) that we attached the fore-arm brace and the handle from a pair of crutches. Worked great for one-handed netting the larger salmon. Plenty of control over the net to swipe/scoop a fish. Net in one hand, thumb on the spool in the other.
 
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KaiChung

Almost A Member
Aug 10, 2009
236
298
Newcastle/WA/USA
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Kai
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Boston Whaler Conquest 28.5
I used to use a long-handled net (8' handle) that we attached the fore-arm brace and the handle from a pair of crutches. Worked great for one-handed netting the larger salmon. Plenty of control over the net to swipe/scoop a fish. Net in one hand, thumb on the spool in the other.
Whoa - that sounds like a pretty cool setup. That's my biggest problem - no control over the net.
 
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Wild Bill

Not Blackmouthing
Aug 4, 2010
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Camano Island
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Steve
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Otter Craft
My kicker stays in gear but throttle control is modulated for situation.

Cockpit control of kicker to turn boat to get fiish on side where net is

8 1/2 foot rod

Scotty release clip fastened to handle of net very lightly clipped to bag of net.

Practice
 
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Gmac23

Newbie
Jul 8, 2019
44
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WA
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G McMichael
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Mainstem
Awesome topic! I love to fish solo. I gun the throttle on iTroll when the rod pops. I fish with a knuckle buster and dread the charge because I have no gear ratio to make up line when they run at the boat. After things settle in a bit I reduce the throttle but remain going forward - my downrigger is port - so I try to circle slowly starboard if there is room among the fleet- to get the fish over there - net in right rod in left, aim for the head and go under and pull up using the gunwale as a fulcrum - and still manage to bungle it regularly. Fortunately(?) - I lose a ton of fish early in the fight - and my netting rodeo antics rarely result in a lost fish, even though they provide nearby boats with some good entertainment.
 
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Moosestock

Newbie
Oct 2, 2010
39
3
Enumclaw, Wa USA
Name
Les H
I fish solo alot for kings...I always use my kicker to chase them as they usually run out on top the water...you have to catch up to them and stay over the top of them so your not close to any other boats cable...I net them on the side of the boat without a rigger down...the rigger side is at the top...I use my kicker to make this work...My net is folded up with the long handle extended...play the fish totally out so they are not slashing around...take your time...and slip the net deeply under...its a rhythm but you get it down and it's very effective....Les
 
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OceanSun

Captain
  • Mar 26, 2013
    159
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    Snohomish WA
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    Dan Meyer
    Boat
    Ocean Dancer 21' Trophy
    Lots of good tips here. One thing that is even more important when netting solo is dropping that rod tip once the fish is over the net and letting him dive into the bottom of the net. Should always do that but even more important when solo. I always laugh when I see a newb pulling the fish out of the net with the rod even when someone else is netting it.
     
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    Nineball

    Let’s goooo!
    Jul 16, 2012
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    Port orchard
    Name
    Chris
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    Parker 2310 "GUANO LOCO"
    I called you out yesterday at JH. Nice to see you out there. Give me a shout if you need crew up until aug11.

    cheers
     
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    Hunter Dan

    I Post A Lot But I Can't Edit This
    Jun 30, 2011
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    MUGWUMP
    Try to find one of the how to books on mooching written way back in the day. Those guys used incredibly light leaders , soft glass rods and often fished solo. They also were experts on adjustable sliding leaders that closed the fishes mouth on hookup to tire them out. Might be some tips worth reviving, especially for the new fleet of kayakers out there these days. Trolling, I can flip fish up to nine or ten pounds into the boat with a 40# leader. When the fur bags are around that can be the only option! From your hooks to your main line connection, make sure it's not longer than your rod! You'll have a much easier time leading fish to the net. I too, very much prefer to play a nice fish in neutral.
     
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    Benj2853

    Quotakiller
    Mar 1, 2017
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    Whidbey Island
    Name
    Ben
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    16' Wellcraft center console
    Before I started fishing knucklebusters I would usually loosen the drag and use my thumb to control tension. If you miss, tighten the drag, reset and try again. These days I usually run shorter leaders without a flasher which makes netting a lot easier.
     
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    KaiChung

    Almost A Member
    Aug 10, 2009
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    Newcastle/WA/USA
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    Kai
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    Boston Whaler Conquest 28.5
    First of all thanks for all the tips. Netting was surprisingly pretty easy. I loosened the drag a lot so took a lot of time to bring to the boat. He was pretty tired and barely struggled with only one short run once at the boat. Most importantly being in neutral. Of course that means being extra careful about any slack in the line. The super loose drag helped. I always had tension but wasn’t worried about pulling the hook.
     
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    kwik_wurk

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    Apr 10, 2012
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    Indianola & Browns Point
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    kwik_wurk
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    Montauk, Sailfish 2360, and Johnson18
    lots of good pointers here.

    A few to affirm and a few to add; and i’ll over explain a few parts for clarity (not to lecture/grandstand):

    - Dial a friend and get another set of hands (and line in). (But get the solo action.)

    - Neutral, the rule abroad my boats: if the fish is not taking decent line, no stopping the other troll sets. (now that’s a little different solo, cause you can stop every time) Typically give it a few seconds before getting into neutral just to get the line straightened out and see what’s going on. Also know which way the boat will turn/spin if it’s windy out. Sometime it helps to pick a direction and start the turn. — Exception is if it’s really blowing out against the tide; driving to the fish might be needed.

    - Suggest changing to a shorter rod if you’re running a 10’+. Shorter rod will be much easier to handle solo. (A lot of people will digress and are adamant about longer rods. Fish what you like by all means.) Personally i use nothing but 8’6” in the sound, one with backbone (i.e. doesn’t double over easily) and sensitive enough at the tip to see shakers. AND it’s short enough that when I put the rod butt down (straight up and down) i can reach to tip top without having the rod criss cross the boat. At 8’ 6”, no problem getting line tension, big bow and spring action when the clip is popped. (However i’ve had to order mine online, won’t find the right ones at any of the local stores.)

    (Spent a lot of time bringing in fish on meat lines. Hand cranking too… so bringing in fish on single pulley block gives a different perspective)

    - Dominant hand gets the net, the rod in the other. Net is ~6’6”-7’ end to end; and my gunnels are about the same height as yours.

    - For me the net job starts when the flasher breaks the surface. Grab the net and rest it against the gunnel whatever the side the fish is going to. - We all know that moment, when the flasher clears the surface and first glimpse of the dorsal and caudal fin. The line tension is just you and the fish; and it’s recharging, tired but trying to get water (oxygen) flow over the gills. So quick and steady (firm) line recovery pays dividends.
    A)The goal is to quickly (but not brute force) swim (lead) the fish to the middle of the boat, without drastically changing the line angle or pulling it’s head too hard or out of water. Basically bring the fish in an arch (or straight line) to the boat, where the line angle and the fish’s head are kept in the same general direction as when it surfaced. A head shake is fine, just try not to let it change direction enough that the approach is messed up. If the fish wants to change sides, just follow it and lead to the other gunnel. Also try to get a glimpse of the line into mouth or quality of the hook-set if possible. (Sounds easy and works 2/3 the time with kings. Not so much with coho, cause they are more likely to trash deep or at the surface.) I prefer directing the fish in mid-ship vs aft near the engines, because if it runs down again, it’s further from the engines.
    B) At this point drag is re-set a little looser, but spool thumbed; crank line as much possible and have a good rpd/body position that you can sweep the rod up and quickly get another 4’ of distance. Net in hand; as the fish approaches, sweep the rod tip up and forward, ideally the fish swimming in at 45° and almost abeam to you. (It’s added bonus if they are so tired they simply roll broadside to you.) If the fish charges off, let it run and restart. If it thrashes it should be 3’ away and either extend and scoop; or hope and pray it doesn’t roll the hooks out and try and drag it a little closer by stepping backwards and extending arm up then scoop. Scoop 1/3rd in front of the fish, because it it squirts, you’ll be in front of it.

    This said, my last fish netted ( small ~10lbs wild) everything went along as described, but at 5’-6’ away spooked at started thrashing. At that point it swam/squirted another 4’ away and down, but once the flasher popped back up, restarted and was brought in close enough to net (again trashing but 2’-3’ away).

    All this said luck probably has more to do with it than anything else just mentioned! Loosing fish sucks, but better than not seeing any marks or no hits, etc…
     

    Hard Chargin'

    Fischjäger
    Aug 11, 2019
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    Andre
    Boat
    Stabicraft 459 Fish'r
    I know I'm one of the weird guys but I'll comment here because I have probably caught well over 90% of my fish solo. I have never struggled and I think the most important factor in making your life easier is the rod. I use the shortest rod I can get away with. I know everyone will tell me I'm doing it wrong and that I'm an idiot but I troll with a 6' stick that's got a fast tip and a lot of backbone. I believe that being able to control the fish at end game is more important than ultra sensitivity for the bite. I can't think of a time when I missed a bite because I didn't have a 10' rod doubled over on the downrigger. Just my experience. Carry on.
     
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