Ready to land that trophy fish? After thoroughly researching the market, we bought 8 of the best fishing nets and rigorously tested each one to give you the information you need to make the right choice. Our experts tested the selected fishing and landing nets in nearly every possible environment, from streams to lakes to bays, and of course, the open ocean. We made detailed notes on how each performed in metrics like portability, durability, and ease of use. Whether you want a top-of-the-line net or the best bang for your buck, our hands-on evaluations can help identify the right net for your needs.
Our Top Picks
If you're seeking a versatile net, check out the Ego S1 Slider. With over 30 different attachments, from transparent rubber mesh, opaque rubber mesh, nylon, PVC, trout, wading, lake, and ocean nets, to a gaff, a deck brush, and many more, this net can get the job done in just about every way imaginable. Throw in the fact that it floats, and it's an even more enticing choice. You can unscrew the sturdy extended pole to use a compact net to scoop up fish that are close, say from a kayak or small boat. The long foam grip also gives you the option to use it one- or two-handed for those real hefty fish. The rubber-coated net on the version we tested features an extra deep well to ensure the catch of the day won't escape.
The only real issue we had was the net itself. Its larger holes could let smaller fish wiggle their way out. And for catch and release, the thin nylon mesh may not be a great choice — it seems more likely to us to hurt the scales of a fish. But on the plus side, it moves through the water quickly to give you a split-second advantage when landing your catch.
If you're seeking both portability and user-friendliness, the Plusinno Foldable Nylon is your net. With a weight of just 14.5 ounces and a folded length of 17", you'll be able to carry this out to your favorite fishing hole and haul out some dinner too. Not hungry? Its rubber-coated net is easy on fish for catch and release and reducing the chances of hook entanglements. With a respectable 12" net depth, you can also count on this fishing net to keep your catch exactly where you want it — in the net. Add in an extendable pole that gives you an extra 7" reach, and you can get out far enough to ensure you land the fish before it shakes the hook. Another benefit? This net floats. So even if you lose grip of the soft foam handle, you'll likely get it back, which is critical, because this net doesn't come with a wrist leash.
One of the few things we found to complain about was the mechanism to extend the pole. It was sometimes difficult to turn and loosen, meaning valuable time could be lost when a fish is on the line. The hoop size is also on the smaller side, so getting a bigger fish in it could be tricky. But if these minor flaws don't bother you, we recommend snagging the Plusinno at a low price for a good product.
If you're seriously into fly fishing or just want a great catch and release net for streams and lakes, the SF Landing Net is the product for you. The bamboo and hardwood construction provides a classic look and quality feel that makes us suspect it will last for years to come. Plus, the magnetic wrist leash is another nifty feature that breaks away when you really need to reach for a fish, and it doubles as a convenient fish tool carrier, keeping things like your plyers within easy reach. And if you drop the net in the stream in a frenzy to land a fish, no worries. The net floats.
We found only a few things to complain about with the SF Fly Fishing Landing Net. For one, it has limited versatility. It's really just designed for one type of fishing. Also, the reach is limited by the 9" handle. Unless you have incredibly long arms, a few fish could get away. But this thing is a master at what it's built to do, and if catch and release in streams and lakes is what you're into, you'll love it. This model's classy style and quality construction also make it a great gift to your angling loved ones.
If you want to turn some heads at the dock, check out the Bubba Carbon Fiber. Not only is it beautifully designed with a carbon fiber shaft, oversize red rubber grip, and a seriously reinforced aerospace aluminum connection between the pole and the hoop, but it can handle some epicly big lake and ocean fish, too. The crosshair notches on the bottom of the handle are a nice touch while keeping this prized possession in your rod holder during rough seas.
All that said, you'll pay a hefty price to get your hands on this flashy and durable fishing net. And on top of that, there are a few other downsides. For one, the net seems rather shallow for a tool designed to land 75-pound monsters. Plus, even with the carbon fiber shaft, the rod is quite heavy, and you would most definitely need to keep two hands on it at all times. But for dedicated anglers going for the big catch that need a model that can handle it, the Bubba Carbon Fiber may be just what you need. Just be prepared for some sticker shock.
Frabill has been around since 1938, and they've made some great products over the years. Although we believe the Frabill Folding Net doesn't quite live up to their typically high standards, it still offers some excellent features, including an easily foldable and portable net with a quick extending handle. The hoop is also relatively large for the size of the landing net, and we had no problem scooping up more substantial fish.
On the downside, both the net material and the telescoping handle felt flimsy to our testers. The aluminum handle feels like it might bend, especially if extended and pulling in a more substantial catch. The net material turned out to be prone to hook entanglements in our tests, which we all know is very frustrating. While there may be better options out there in this category, the Frabill Folding Net with Telescoping Handle is still a good buy for the price.
Ideal for fishing off a boat in a lake or out at sea, the Wakeman Retractable Rubber gives you the reach and net size to land small to medium size fish. The aluminum handle pulls out of the hoop quickly so that you can store the whole setup out of the way, and the thermal plastic rubber net material reduces tangles and is easy on fish.
But from there on out, this net fell short in several areas. For one, the grip just doesn't provide that much, well, grip. Also, it's very short, so two-handed use is more complicated. The connection between the pole and the hoop doesn't seem very solid, and we could imagine this being a real concern when landing a heavier fish. It also comes with a flimsy wrist leash, which could spell trouble because this net will sink if dropped in the water. With all that said, the Wakeman Fishing Retractable Rubber Landing Net is reasonably priced and can get the job done in most situations.
If you want the lightest and most space-saving design in a fishing net, look no further than the RESTCLOUD Telescoping Aluminum. With the handle fully extended, you'll have an impressive 50" reach, and when folded up, you can easily slip this in your backpack for a hike out to your go-to fishing hole.
Unfortunately, you might not be using this landing net for very long. We worry that this model isn't built with durability in mind, hence the price. When fully extended, the handle feels like it might snap even without a fish in it. Still, it did hold up during our testing period and remained fully functional after landing several smaller fish. The nylon mesh netting also tends to get hooks caught in it, and if you drop it in the water, get ready to find a new net because this one sinks. Our testers recommend considering some of the other options to spend your money on.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead reviewer, Kit Smith, has been fishing on streams, lakes, bays, and oceans for over 35 years. Growing up around the San Francisco Bay, he started at a young age fishing for salmon and halibut in the Bay and in the waters outside the Golden Gate Bridge. His family also owned a cabin in Bear Valley, a small resort community in the Central Sierras, where he got hooked on fishing inland streams and lakes. Later, he moved to Colorado to attend college, where he picked up fly fishing and continued perfecting his angling craft.
Testing took place in streams and lakes around Mammoth Lakes, California, as well as in the Lake Tahoe Basin and the coast of Southern California. Our lead tester fished from boats and shorelines to test each model in different situations. We hooked and landed dozens of fish in the process of testing these products, helping us hone in on key performance differences between each model. Impressions were gained by taking each net out into the field and getting a feel for the durability, versatility, and portability. Detailed notes were gleaned from professional fishers and taken into consideration. Once we understood the advantages of each landing net, we compared them side-by-side to truly suss out the differences. Both our field testing and side-by-side comparisons inform the rankings and recommendations found in this article.
Analysis and Test Results
While conducting extensive field testing, we used five metrics to assess each fishing net: Portability, Versatility, Ease of Use, Durability, and Fish Care. Each of these is discussed in greater detail below.
A lot of fishing is done on hard-to-reach streams and lakeshores, so it makes sense to include portability as a metric. Having a fishing net that can fold up and easily stow away in a backpack is vital when trying to get to your favorite fishing spot. Portability can also be critical when fishing from a kayak or small boat where space is limited.
When it comes to maximum portability, the Plusinno Foldable Net and the Frabill Folding Net take the top spots. The Plusinno takes the cake for most portable while still handling to rigors of landing fish well, folding to a length of just 17". Of course, portability can come at a cost, as the absolute most packable fishing net, the RESTCLOUD Net, didn't impress with its seemingly weak construction and cheap materials.
Having a net that can do it all is one of the most important metrics to consider. No use in buying and bringing multiple nets when one will do. But not all landing nets are created equal when it comes to versatility. The Ego S1 Slider is the clear winner here. With 30 plus attachments, from different types of fishing nets to a gaff to a deck brush, you can do just about anything with one pole. And you can even get different lengths of poles or extendable ones as well.
In contrast, while they are high-quality products, the Bubba Carbon Fiber and SF Fly Fishing Landing Net are really only made for one type of fishing (saltwater trophy hunting and catch and release, respectively), and because of that, they don't score highly in the versatility metric.
Ease of Use
This might be the most important metric we tested. If a net's not easy to use, it likely won't be in your fishing arsenal for long. A standout in this category is the Bubba, with functional style, a non-detachable pole, and a solid grip that made it easy to grab quickly and scoop up the larger fish we caught during testing.
With its classic construction and limited features, the SF Fly Fishing Landing Net also proved strong in this metric. Although it didn't score high in the versatility department, its purpose-built design means it's about as easy to use as you can get for a fishing net.
This is a tough metric to determine within a limited time frame. But experience, hands-on feel, visual stress on the handle, and materials utilized in the design told our testers a lot. There were some standouts based on the initial feel and actual field testing.
The true king of durability, though, is the Bubba Carbon Fiber. With a carbon-fiber shaft, aerospace aluminum hoop, and massive rubber grip, we can imagine this thing lasting a very long time with the right care. Of course, as the most expensive fishing net we tested, that durability comes at a cost.
With catch and release becoming more and more popular, we think this is an important metric to include. Older nets with their thin string netting material can harm fish and reduce their chances of survival after release. Now with new, thicker rubberized netting material, fish can be treated to a much more gentle experience that boosts their chances of surviving and producing even more fish once released.
As a net explicitly designed for catch and release, the SF Fly Fishing Landing Net is the clear winner here. Its soft rubber was very gentle on the fish, and the transparent netting is designed to avoid spooking them while you're scooping them up. But many of the nets came with a rubberized coating that worked in much the same fashion, including the Plusinno Foldable Net, and the Wakeman Fishing Retractable Net. If you plan on doing a lot of catch-and-release fishing, you should seriously consider these landing nets.
The need for a reliable fishing net is about as old as fishing itself. The most important thing to consider is the style of fishing you're looking to do. Are you itching to get off the beaten path and find a small stream or lake, or are you going way offshore in search of that trophy fish? Whatever it is, there's a landing net here designed just for you. And luckily, in this product category, price does not entirely determine the best model for the job. We hope this article has been informative in your search. Now get out there and reel in, net, and land your catch of the day.
— Kit Smith
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More