Learning how to land a fish is not difficult, but remember to be careful, for both you and the fish. As your fish gets closer to the boat, drop your entire rod and reel to your waist. If the fish goes under the boat, get your rod tip in the water and follow it. If you can see the fish, you'll know when it's tired. It'll roll over on its side to let you know it’s ready to be landed. And if you can't see the fish, you'll be able to feel it. For smaller fish, such as crappie simply lift them by hand or by a fishing net from the water quickly then cradle the fish around the belly to remove the hook.

Bass Thumb and Handling Fish by the Jaw 

A female angler safely holds up her catch by the fish’s jaw causing the famous bass thumb

Species without teeth that have strong jaws such as largemouth bass can be picked up by their lower jaw. Carefully avoiding the hook, place your thumb on the inside of the fish’s mouth and your index finger on the outside to grip a bass by its lower jaw. This  holds the jaw wide open and temporarily paralyzes the fish, but does not injure it if you wish to practice catch and release. Though you are holding the fish with your bass thumb, be prepared to also hold it below the belly as the fish can still sometimes wiggle.

Tip: Once you have mastered how to land a fish, a photo is typically in order. Holding a bass with your thumb makes for an easy and safe photo op as well as gives the angler the rewarding bass thumb. Check out this Take Me Fishing blog on other anglers’ bass thumbs.

How to Net a Fish 

An illustration of how to land a fish with a fishing net

Usually the best way to land a larger fish, or one with sharp teeth is with a fishing net. Place the fishing net in the water and lead the fish into the net head first. Don't stab the net at the fish. If you don't get it the first time, re-aim and try again. Get it out of the water and take the hook out as quickly as possible so you can either release it promptly or stash it in a livewell or fishbox to eat at home.

Using a fishing net is also great when learning how to land a fish, especially when you want to practice catch and release. Nets minimizes the amount you touch a fish. Learn more about of these tactics in the catch and releasesection.

Landed a keeper? Check out our how to fillet a fish page for tips in the preparing your catch section.