Published Aug 18, 2022 5:29 PM
Kayak fishing nets solve a unique set of challenges and are important to improving angler success. Landing a big fish while sitting inches above the water is no easy task. Fish can dart under the kayak, break rods, or throw the hook. To combat this, kayak anglers use nets to land more fish and keep them under control. Due to the limited space on a kayak, most nets are not suited for small boats. Many fishing nets are too large or too heavy for kayaks. I like to match the bag size to the fish I’m after. This minimizes weight and still allows me to net fish further away from the boat. Different situations do call for different nets. It is critical to determine your style of fishing and what species you are after before purchasing a net. Here are the best kayak fishing nets for a variety of different scenarios.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Kayak Fishing Net
I’ve lost several fish from a kayak because I didn’t have a net. Many think that the net job is easier since you are lower to the water and closer to the fish. The truth is long rods make it difficult to grab the fish without breaking the rod or dropping it overboard. When choosing a kayak fishing net you need to consider net size, boat space, and target species. A net that fits all three categories is worthy of carrying on the water.
A large net hoop is crucial when a fish surfaces next to the kayak and is frantically jumping around. This allows your margin of error to be much larger. I like to go with as large of a net hoop as possible without it being too cumbersome. You also need to think about bag size. I prefer a net with a deeper bag so I can rest the handle across my lap while I get ready to release the fish. The extra depth in the net bag keeps the fish in the water so it’s healthy and lively when I release it.
Storage is critical on a fishing kayak. Finding a net that takes up as little space as possible is important so you can store other tackle. You should look for a net that is compact and lightweight or find a folding option. Lightweight nets add little weight and are easy to control. Plus, they are ready at a moment’s notice when you hook a fish. Folding nets do require some setup. The upside is you can get away with a bigger frame because it breaks down for easier storage.
Knowing your target species will ultimately determine the best net for the job. Musky anglers won’t use the same net as bass anglers. The hoop size and handle design will determine what fish you can net. A longer, studier handle will allow you to control bigger fish. If a 40-inch fish is thrashing in a net, having a handle that fits your hand will help keep the fish under control.
The net bag material is also an important consideration, especially for catch and release anglers. A rubberized net help protects the slime coating on the fish and keeps hooks from getting tangled. This makes for a quick and easy release once you’ve snapped a few photos of your prized catch.
Why It Made the Cut: The combination of lightweight materials and a large hoop size makes this the perfect net for kayak anglers targeting a variety of species.
- Hoop Size: 13”x18”
- Handle Length: 19”
- Net Material: Rubber Net Bag
- Compact and easy to store
- It floats if dropped
Fishpond’s Nomad Mid-Length net is one of the lightest nets I’ve ever used. The carbon fiber construction reduces the weight while adding a level of strength that is unmatched. This has been my go-to trout net for years and it doubles perfectly for kayak fishing. It is my top choice for a ready-to-go one-piece net. Compared to other one-piece nets, the Nomad is sized right to store in the gunnel or behind the seat for quick access. The net bag is sized to handle a variety of fish up to about 30 inches. Built with a 19-inch handle, you have plenty of room to reach for fish that are a little further out. Best of all, it floats, so if you do drop it, you can easily recover it. This net is ideal for anglers wanting to save weight and space.
Why It Made the Cut: An innovative and compact net that is designed to give anglers the upper hand on big fish far away from the kayak.
- Hoop Size: 14”x18”
- Handle Length: 18”
- Net Material: Rubberized mesh with a flat net bottom
- Leverage handle to lift heavy fish
- Built-in flashlight for low light conditions
- The net hoop is a little small
This series of nets are designed to give kayakers anglers a mechanical advantage with its leverage-based handle. When fully extended you can wrap your hand under the front grip and use your elbow as a fulcrum to lift bigger fish out of the water. It also folds in half for easy storage when you aren’t using it.
On kayaks with a raised seat, it stows away under the seat for quick access. The net bag is made of a rubberized mesh material that protects your catch while minimizing weight. Additionally, a flat net bottom keeps the fish from folding and can speed up the release process. For anglers hitting the first or last light bite, LEDs in the net frame help illuminate the fish and net to see what you are doing. The features of the Bearclaw series is hard to compete with.
Why It Made the Cut: Broken Twig Landing Nets offers a unique net for hockey enthusiasts that checks every box for a kayak fishing net.
- Hoop Size: 14”x16”
- Handle Length: 16”
- Net Material: Rubber net bag
- Unique design
- Deep net bag
- Handle fits firmly in your hand
- Works best for bigger kayaks
A quality product with a personalized touch is what you get from Broken Twig Landing Nets. They repurpose old and broken hockey sticks to make a custom landing net that’s perfect for kayak anglers. The Quick & Light model offers a great balance between handle length and overall net size. At 16 inches the handle allows you to reach for further fish and the large basket engulfs fish in the net. While slightly larger than other nets I tested, for bigger fish this is my go-to. The rectangular design of a hockey stick gives you a solid grip, preventing the net from rolling in your hand. Add the hockey tape job on the end of the handle and you’ll have plenty of grip in wet conditions. I find this net fits best on larger kayaks and even transfers well with bigger saltwater species. Hockey sticks also float surprisingly well. I’ve even gone as far as resting smaller fish in the net while I quickly grab my pliers to release them safely.
Best for Saltwater
Why It Made the Cut: The ultimate big fish net, the deep bag, and leverage-based handle design are built to tame trophy fish.
- Hoop Size: 20”x21”
- Handle Length: 28”
- Net Material: Rubber net bag
- Deep net bag
- Foldable design
- Leverage assisted handle
- Takes up a decent amount of space
Any angler who’s spent time fishing in saltwater knows how challenging it can be, let alone doing it from a kayak. To help tip the odds in your favor, YakAttack designed the Leverage Landing Net. Similar to Frabill’s approach, it works on the same premise of using your arm as a fulcrum to pull in heavier fish. However, this net takes it to another level for powerful saltwater fish. The handle features an arm hook to wrap below your elbow and a padded handle to lift fish out of the water. With an overall length of 48 inches, there is plenty of room to scoop uncooperative fish. I find the deep net bag is great for holding larger fish in the net while they calm down. I’ve had too many nets with shallow bags pop a hole when a big fish decides it wants out. When you’re ready to get back to paddling the net folds down to a manageable size for easy storage. Whether inshore snook fishing or offshore reef fishing, a leverage-based net, like this one, is ideal.
Why It Made the Cut: A short-handled design with a large hoop for easy storage and an affordable price point.
- Hoop Size: 17”x19”
- Handle Length: 11”
- Net Material: Rubber net bag
- Easy to store
- Large basket for the handle size
- Comes with a handle lanyard for safe keeping
I find the EGO Kayak Fishing Net to be the right size with the right features. The net floats in case you drop it in deeper water and the added lanyard let you clip it to a lifejacket. An 11-inch handle gives you the ability to reach slightly for uncooperative fish. It comes with a large net hoop and deep net basket. At 19 inches long, there is plenty of room for fish up to 30lbs. I also prefer its flat front compared to circular designs. A flat net front gives you more area for the fish to slide into the net and keeps them from escaping. While it doesn’t fold down, at this price point, it’s hard to beat.
I grew up wade fishing in streams and a net was a necessity to land a fish. As I graduated from waders to a kayak, I took what I learned about nets with me and discovered a few more things along the way. The best nets for kayaks are easy to store, have a decent reach, and have a net bag sized to the fish you are after. A net that hits all three will set you up for success on the water. Here are the criteria I used to make sure the nets checked these boxes:
- Net Shape: How does the net shape impact its performance?
- Handle Length: Is the handle adequately sized for hard-to-reach fish?
- Net Bag Type: What material is the net bag and is it durable?
- Durability: Is the net made to withstand the sun, water, and grind of daily use?
- Floatation: Does it float?
- Design: Does the net have any features that make it easier to use?
Q: Do I need a net for kayak fishing?
While it’s not a necessity, a good net goes a long way when fishing from a kayak. Landing fish in a small boat can be tricky with long rods and no nets. Not to mention if the fish has teeth. I like a portable net I can easily bring with me regardless of the size or style of the kayak.
Q: How do you net a fish on a kayak?
Netting a fish on a kayak is similar to netting a fish on a bigger boat. I like to get the fish as close as possible before reaching with the net. When the fish is in range always try to net the fish head first. This prevents the fish from jumping away. The fish will shoot further into the net when you approach head first, and if it does shoot to the side, you’re in a better position to react.
Q: How much does a kayak fishing net cost?
Kayak fishing nets can range in price depending on options and materials. The carbon fiber nets dramatically cut weight but come with a hefty price tag. For most anglers’ nets in the $100 or less range are much more affordable. Here you can find nets with a variety of options to make landing fish easier. Nets like the YakAttack Leverage Landing Net can be had at this price point. If your budget is a little tighter, shorter handled kayaking nets are available that do the job but lack the extra reach of other nets.
Q: Is the type of mesh important when choosing a kayak fishing net?
Mesh is a very important part of choosing the best kayak fishing net. While woven mesh nets are the classic design, they are not the best option for fish health. Rubber nets or mesh with a rubberized coating are designed to protect fish. The rubber coating keeps a fish’s slime coating intact. Removing this coating can leave fish more susceptible to infection from bacteria in the water.
Kayak fishing presents a unique set of challenges and the right net helps. Sitting close to the water, trying not to drop any gear, and dealing with a feisty fish is next to impossible without a good net. I prefer kayak nets that are easy to store, lightweight, and a good length to reach out. Every kayak angler setup will vary slightly, so take the time to find the best kayak fishing net for you.