The 5 Best Steelhead Wading Nets

Learning indicator nymphing with a guide - The trout net is ready

As a veteran river guide for over 20 years, there are some years that I will put over 500 steelhead in my steelhead net. You would think I would be using the top-of-the-line and most expensive steelhead net, but to be honest, I don’t.

I prefer functional and inexpensive nets for steelhead, and this is for a few simple reasons.

Before you buy a new net, consider these five things.

An angler holding a steelhead with his FishUSA net in the water at his feet.
This picture shows the FishUSA net that is used by steelhead guide Dalton from Goose’s Steelhead Guide Service in Pennsylvania.

The best steelhead net will have:

  1. A long enough handle for more reach
  2. A wide and long enough hoop to fit a big steelhead in it
  3. A deep enough net to securely hold big steelhead
  4. A net mesh that is easy on the fins and scales of the steelhead
  5. It must be lightweight and portable.

I’ve used and tested a lot of good nets for steelhead, and I’ve also used some not-so-good landing nets. The nets below are the five best steelhead wading nets for river fishing, and I will also include a new and innovative option.

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My 3 Quick Pick Steelhead Nets

  1. FishUSA Premium Trout & Steelhead Landing Net: Best Overall with a longer handle.
  2. Frabil 17×22 floating trout net: Best Lightweight Budget Net
  3. Fishpond Nomad El Jefe Net: Best High-End Net
  4. NETrekk: New and Innovative:

These are the five best steelhead nets:

This Frabill Floating Trout Net is what I use on walk and wade salmon trips
Frabill Floating Trout Net

1. Frabil Floating Net: Guides Choice

The Frabill Trout Net is the net I have used for many years when wading for steelhead, salmon, and trout and it’s a great net for the average steelhead angler, and it now floats.

The 17″ x 22″ is great for steelhead and is big enough to get most of the body of a large salmon in. Enough to control the fish in the water. It’s also cheap, but it works well, which is why I love it.

Just don’t try to lift a big heavy fish up with this net, or it might break. I’ve put thousands of steelhead in this net because I don’t lift them up and carry them out of the water.

2. FishUSA Premium Trout & Steelhead Landing Net

This is one of the best mid-length handle nets designed for steelhead and trout.

This net offers the benefits of a larger hoop, a deeper bag, and a mid-length handle suitable for steelhead fishing.

Made of lightweight carbon fiber so it’s not heavy to carry, it floats, and the 18-inch tangle-free deep black rubber bag is large enough and deep enough for steelhead up to 15 pounds.

The net measures 37 inches in total length, with a hoop size of 13 x 18 inches and a bag depth of 18 inches.

The Fishpond Nomad El Jefe Net

3. Fishpond Nomad El Jefe Net

The Fishpond Nomad El Jefe Net is a net used by many river guides when wading for steelhead, salmon, and trout.

The 13″ x 21.75″ wide mesh rubber netting is good for steelhead. This net also works from the boat.

Also, don’t try to lift a fish up with this net or it might break.

  • Clear rubber net bag
  • Length: 41.5 in.
  • Weight: 1.23 lbs.
  • Head Dimensions: 13 x 21.75 in.
  • Bag Depth: 14 in.

If you like a shorter handle you can try the Fishpond Nomad Hand net: See it here.

4. Frabill Kwik Stow Folding Trout Net

The Frabill Kwik Stow Folding Trout Net with the 22 x 20-inch hoop is the net I have used for many years on and off my boat.

It folds up nicely, but it can be a little difficult to unfold when fighting a fish by yourself.

If you are looking for a decent combo net for the boat and walking, this is a good one.

5. Rising Cerakote Stubby Lunker Fishing Net 10″ Handle

The Stubby Lunker Net is a cross between the smaller Brookie and longer-handled Lunker Net. The shorter handle makes it easier to wade with and hang from a vest or a pack. Also, it’s made in the USA.

It features a total length of 33.5 inches, with a hoop size of 14 x 22″, with a rubber bag depth of 11 inches.

These are the NETrekk versions available.

6. NETrekk Nets – Most Innovative Net

I was recently introduced to the NETrekk nets, and what caught my attention was that they’re one of the most innovative nets I have seen, and even better, they are designed by a fellow angler.

These nets are getting good reviews and are worth looking into, especially if you are looking for a folding net or a net that easily converts into a wading staff.

Connect Your Net Properly

Hooking Up A trout Net Properly
This angler has his trout net hooked up perfectly with an elastic safety cord running from the handle of the net to his wader belt.

I have found lots of nets on the side of the river or along the path. Most of the time, it’s because the net is not properly secured and it will get caught on a branch or log and come off, and the angler just keeps on walking without noticing it’s gone.

The problem is most anglers attach their net with the handle up. The pro anglers and competition anglers have the handle down.

The handle-up means the meshing of the net is dangling low and is more likely to get caught on branched and low obstructions. Handle up and also harder to grab.

Having the handle hanging low, like in the above picture, keeps the mesh out of the way, and look where the angler’s hand is and how close it is to the handle. This makes it much easier to grab when you are fishing a big fish.

Best Trout Nets
The advantage of bigger trout nets is the long reach. Long nets are always better when fishing from a boat too.

To rig this properly, connect the net release magnet at the top and have a 4mm elastic cord attached to the bottom of the hand, with the other end of the elastic cord attached to your belt.

The elastic cord should be stretchy enough to allow you to reach full extension with your arm, but still be strong enough not to break if it gets caught on a branch while walking. A thin bungee cord works for me, and I use a carabiner to connect it to my belt.

A magnetic net release for wading nets
A magnetic net release for wading nets

Cheap magnetic releases that I have tried sometimes do not have enough magnet strength. They just don’t have a strong enough magnet to hold the bigger steelhead nets.

The Fishpond Confluence Net Release is a great option.

How To Use A Steelhead Net Properly So You Don’t Break It

Trout net size
This angler is fishing with a net big enough for 10-pound trout but small and light enough to hang properly from his back.

You may be thinking this is a no-brainer, but I’ll be honest with you and say that often, if a net breaks, it’s human error.

Steelhead landing nets are made to put the fish in them and then hold them in place while the fish remains in the water.

Nets are not meant to carry a 15-pound fish up and out of the water, at least not for long.

Most nets break when big fish are lifted and when the full weight of the fish is pulling on the net. Nets also break or tear more often from being caught on branches or logs when walking through trails and forest areas.

For these reasons, I prefer cheaper nets like my net in the above image, which cost me less than $30.00.

If you have a question about the best steelhead net or advice on a good net that works for you, let us know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,



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  1. I have the NETrekk back country staff/net 22”. Being a senior and not as agile, this staff lets me get into waters more safely. The tungsten tip lets me feel exactly where I’m about step next. The scale on the handle not only lets me measure fish but is a quick reference to where to set my staff for length each time. I could go on for sometime here regarding quality, construction, etc. trust me it is very well made and I couldn’t be happier with this product…

      1. Yes and the gentleman that makes them is truly a great person and has his name and hands on it! It’s worth every dollar. I know, I live in Pennsylvania and Fish steelhead near Erie pa. Jerry Hicks the owner is in New Mexico. Certainly a man that is dedicated to provide all anglers the best product no matter where you live or fish. Please try his company and product, you won’t be disappointed I’m sure

    1. Yes, I have to let all know that I live and fish in Pennsylvania for steelhead near Erie pa. Jerry Hicks is from Albuquerque NM. This man is not only a fisherman like us all he is dedicated to providing the best product to help us all no matter where you live or what your fishing for, truly the great American way!! Trust me, a wonderful product.worth ever $