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Beginners Guide to Dip Netting

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#1 Guest_FirstChAoS_*

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 01:05 AM

Beginners Guide to Dip Netting

Seines are often the go to tool for sampling fish. They have an incredible advantage in surface area that lets them catch more fish. But solo seining can be difficult and unwieldy leading to the net catching on cover and snagging under foot.

Despite the seines advantages the dip net should not be discounted as an effective sampling tool.

Getting Your First Net

When it comes to getting your first dip net you have two choices: going to a sporting goods store or ordering online.

If you try the sporting goods store option my first suggestion would be avoiding the nets they call dip nets. These are usually small flimsy nets made for dipping into bait buckets and bait wells.

Instead I suggest you check out the landing nets and find one with a long handle and a very small mesh size. Finding a net with a mesh like this can be hit or miss as these nets are usually made for landing large fish not dipping minnows.

This net will serve most of your purposes but will have a major downfall in durability. Your average small mesh dip net will be torn from rocks, muck, and weeds in a month or two.

At the risk of sounding like an advertiser for Jonahs Aquarium I will say that if you order online the perfect dipnet from Jonah's Aquarium is your best bet.

Though no dip net is truly perfect (you'd soon want variations on weight, hoop shape, bag length, etc.) The prefect dip net does have a few advantages over store bought nets. These advantages include a flat bottom to hug the river bottom, an extendable handle, replaceable parts, and most importantly. Extreme durability.I have had a perfect dip net for a few years with only a slightly bent hoop for damage. This fares much better than store bought dip nets which rarely if ever last over three months.

There is one other piece of gear you should have other than a net. That is a good pair of tough, waterproof shoes. Yes, you CAN use an old pair of normal sneakers. But I speak from experience when I say they will soon fall apart from the moisture and abrasion of kick netting.

Why are shoes important? Rivers and ponds tend to have sharp rocks, bits of metal, and broken glass. Shoes can greatly reduce the change of injury from these. This is not one hundred percent effective though. I was once netting in deep muck that went over and oozed into my shoes and got cut by glass that oozed in with the mud.

Stationary Dipping Tactics.

There are two basic types of dip netting: stationary dip netting and sweeping dip netting. In stationary dip netting the net is still and you move. In sweeping dip netting it is the opposite.

The most important kind of stationary dip netting is kick netting. To kick net you place the dip netp on the river bottom downstream from you and kick the rocks vigorously, hoping to flush out hidden fish and drive them into your net.

It is nearly impossible to kick net without getting a the occasional large stone in the net. Be warned, this can and likely will damage the net.

Not every rocky stream is kickable. Some have rocks that are too big or too firmly embedded into the ground. Though they are the traditional kickable structure you can kick net without rocks too. I have got tesselated darters from kicking small chunks of wood and bits of submerged sod which eroded off the river bank.

Another factor in kick netting, and one I am still not good at, is being able to read the current. Placing a rock downstream sounds easy enough, but a rock that splits the current gives fish two potential escape routes.Plus current can change dramaticly from kicking itself which often changes how rocks control the current flow.

Don't be afraid to kick the slight falls that form as a stream tumbles over rocks and changes elevation. The largest longnose dace I ever caught came from using that method, and down is the easiest and most stable current direction to judge.

Kick netting is highly effective and has got me dace and darters in streams and sunfish in ponds.

The next stationary dip netting tactic is the body rush. This is using your body to drive fish into the net.

I have done a couple variants on the body rush technique. On one occasion I got blacknose dace by rushing into an indentation on the river bank too big to block with a net alone, placing the net at the exit area to catch the fleeing dace.

Another more challenging variation (which only worked once for me) is placing the net firmly on the bottom behind a school and swinging your body around in front of it, into the middle of the school. This scares a few fish into the net. Usually when I try this the school just speeds up to avoid me. However the one time it worked it got me some largemouth bass fry.

Sweeping Net Tactics

For most sweeping net tactics you quickly sweep the net down towards you or towards cover to catch fish.

The most obvious variation of this is sight dipping where you try and catch fish you actually see. This is among the most difficult versions as fish that you can see can see you. Plus, fish who cannot avoid overhead sweeping threats like kingfishers and diving mergansers will be short lived indeed.

It can work, especially with schools of fry. I once sight netted a who school of bullhead fry.

For more challenging situations creativity is needed. Once when a school of fry avoided my every dip, I got out a second net and dipped them towards each other. This got me a of them, they were white suckers.

The alternative is scooping blindly into weeds or under undercut banks and rocks. Often this works much better than sight dipping. I am not sure why, maybe the fish feel safer hiding under cover.

As before, often creativity is key. Once when dip netting weed beds, chain pickerel fingerlings kept avoiding being caught by keeping pace just ahead of my net. I finally got them when I used my body as a wall to drive them back into the net.

When dipping under structure, drive the net back as far as it can go then up. In shallow structure sometimes this can be done in a single move. But in deeper cover you often have to do both movements separately. This method has got me species as diverse as northern red belly dace, western blacknose dace, brook trout, flounder, and cunner.

Another sweeping method is the dredge. This is also another tactic likely to damage flimsy nets. To dredge you scrape the net along the bottom towards you, picking up mud, weeds, and other debris. Afterwards you have the challenge of sifting thwe fish out of the mud and debris they are buried in. This method has got me american eel and swamp darter on a trip to the Cape with Justin, and bullheads locally.

Other Advice

It is important to note that different fish like different habitats. In a stretch of river you can get longnose dace in the swift rocky areas, blacknose dace in the slower rocky areas, tesselated darters in the slower muddy areas with scattered cover, and banded killifish in the weedy still water indentations along the river bank.

Also note your fish species. A location with five or six species competing for a spot in fast current will usually get more fish than one with two fast current species who prefer very different temperature ranges.

Sometimes fish will stick in cover and avoid being netted. Sometimes stepping on the weeds can drive them into a net that sweeping didn't work on. Though I do NOT recommend destroying habitat, I do admit to once stomping an undercut bank flat to force a banded sunfish into my net.

Also note fish may move or change location with the water level, seasons, or temperature. A tactic that worked well one week may not work well another. This means you need either a change of tactics, location, or both.

#2 Guest_Heather_*

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Posted 16 January 2014 - 11:14 PM

Just found this, thanks for the informative post... Posted Image

#3 Guest_tomterp_*

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 12:12 PM

Agreed, a very nice survey of techniques. As stated, "creativity is key".

I would like to add a technique, and expand upon another one.

When snorkeling I have had success placing a stationary dip net just downstream from a darter hotspot, then, after the darters have become accustomed to my presence, using one hand to reach out around behind them and gently urge them towards and ultimately into the net. It's easier if someone else is tending the net, but feasible solo.

In dense surface aquatic vegetation, one can scoop up masses of vegetation (even without having seen any fish), and then comb through the strands and often find things you didn't expect to find. I did this in the tidal Potomac and was very surprised how many large crayfish we turned up that were resident in the grass just under the surface, when I had presumed them to be bottom/rock dwellers. Oh, and yes, there were fundulus as well. You do need a very strong net handle to do this however.

#4 Betta132

  • NANFA Guest
  • San Gabriel drainage area

Posted 17 February 2015 - 07:39 PM

Any advice on catching shiners who think they're on Red Bull? Double net?

I've caught fish with just a really fast swoop. It helps if you have something getting their attention and a small net that can be swooped ultra-fast, and it also helps if you swoop from more or less in front of them. If you can get the net at least near them before the SHOOM kicks in, you'll get a few. I've used it on minnows and such, it's more a surface-fish technique. Unfortunately for me, the shiners near me have a snowy egret regularly after them, so they're surface-shy.

#5 Matt DeLaVega

Matt DeLaVega
  • Forum Staff
  • Ohio

Posted 17 February 2015 - 07:56 PM

Spook them into vegetation then sweep the vegetation. Overhanging grass from the banks works well. Or don't spook them, they are likely to already be in the vegetation.

Shuffle upstream like mad until you muddy the pool below containing the shiners. Gives you an advantage.

Pick your battles. Don't waste a bunch of time in a clear pool randomly swiping at fish, move until you find a more strategic location.

Get a seine and a partner. If nobody is available, most people can work a 4 foot seine fairly easily solo.

The member formerly known as Skipjack

#6 gerald

  • Global Moderator
  • Wake Forest, North Carolina

Posted 18 February 2015 - 02:59 PM

Cold weather can be a good "partner" when trying to catch fast fish solo.  Fish that usually move in open water when warm may be huddled against the stream bank under roots and overhanging plants when they're cold, and they can't dash away nearly as fast. (Not sure how helpful that will be in TX).

Gerald Pottern
Hangin' on the Neuse
"Taxonomy is the diaper used to organize the mess of evolution into discrete packages" - M.Sandel

#7 Betta132

  • NANFA Guest
  • San Gabriel drainage area

Posted 19 February 2015 - 12:42 AM

Not sure how cold it'd need to be. It's going to be 60something most of the week, dropping down into the 40s on Monday. I don't think I like the prospect of wading around in 45 degree water, but I know a few spots I can reach from the bank. Might have to scout in a couple of days and see if they've slowed down any. If not, I can try anyway and go back another time.

Those things get FAST in summer. And no wonder, given that we'll have weeks that don't go below 100. With the sped metabolisms, those guys are practically on energy drinks.

Think some fish food might be helpful? I know most small fish like this kind, and I plan to just toss a couple of pinches out and see if the shiners are interested. These guys will come eat out of my hand in less than two minutes if I'm holding food, and they'll stay around even if I start moving, so I think chucking some food in will probably keep the shiners around.

#8 Matt DeLaVega

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  • Ohio

Posted 19 February 2015 - 10:49 AM

Food would work after a bit of time. You may have to visit the same spot daily for a couple days for them to catch on. It might work right away to an extent, but more reliably after they were a bit habituated.

The member formerly known as Skipjack

#9 fundulus

  • Global Moderator

Posted 19 February 2015 - 12:21 PM

One word for winter work: waders.
Bruce Stallsmith, Huntsville, Alabama, US of A

#10 FirstChAoS

  • Regional Rep

Posted 19 February 2015 - 01:07 PM

One word for winter work: waders.

 I didn't know waders melt ice. :)

#11 fundulus

  • Global Moderator

Posted 19 February 2015 - 01:26 PM

It assumes you live in a place with open water at least some of the winter, or you can be a tough guy and break ice. If you live in a barbaric climate with months of frozen bodies of water, I recommend that you clear out. But that's a whole 'nother rant.
Bruce Stallsmith, Huntsville, Alabama, US of A

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