Steelhead Net: The 3 Best Steelhead Wading Nets

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

As a veteran river guide, there are some years that I will put over 500 steelhead in my steelhead net. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying I’d be lost without a steelhead net, and I’d have a lot of disappointment if I didn’t have the proper net to land their big steelhead. In this article, I will review the best steelhead nets for river fishing.

A good steelhead net will have a long enough handle for more reach, a wide and long enough hoop to fit big steelhead in it, a deep enough net to securely hold big steelhead, a net mesh that is easy on the fins and scales of the steelhead, and it must be portable and lightweight.

That is what makes a good steelhead net.

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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 nets are made to put the fish in them and then hold them in place while the fish remain 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 the full weight of the fish is pulling on the net.

Nets also break 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.

The Best Steelhead Nets

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

It’s actually difficult to find a good wading net suitable for steelhead that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

I’ve even seen some of these very expensive nets rip with big fish swimming right through the net, so expensive doesn’t always mean better.

The best steelhead nets are:

Guides Choice Steelhead Net:

The Frabill Floating Trout Net is the net I have used for many years when wading for steelhead, salmon, and trout.

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 fish up with this net or it might break. I’ve put thousands of steelhead in this net.

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

The 3″ x 21.75″ wide mesh rubber netting is great for steelhead. This net also work from the boat.

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

The Frabill Kwik Stow Folding Trout Net 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.

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 image keep the meshing 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.

To rig this properly. Connect the net release magnet at the top and have an 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 and hand, 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 suck. They just don;t have a strong enough magnet to hold the bigger steelhead nets.

The Fishpond Confluence Net Release is a great option.

Best Steelhead Net Q&A

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

Tight Lines,


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