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walleye, walleyes, jigging, jig, jigs
Get the Net Under Those Trophy Fish
 By Perry Good

Perhaps the most frustrating experience on the water is losing a good walleye next to the boat.  This happens more often than anglers are willing to admit.  I believe that this problem can be corrected.
 The two-fold key to landing more fish is to increase hooking ratios and to practice proper execution at boatside.  You might be amazed even veteran anglers disregard some simple tips and continue to lose fish.
 You have probably seen some fisherman on T.V. go overboard setting the hook.  Some even set the hook two or three times.  It might look good but it won't add more fish to the livewell.  The common term "setting the hook" is really a misnomer.  If you don't believe me try  rehooking a fish with you hands.  It's not easy.  Actually the fish sets the hook, not you.  Instead of "driving" a hook into the lip of a walleye try "lifting" the fish off the bottom with your rod.  What you want to do is excite the fish to produce a head shake.  In so doing, it opens its mouth to exhale the foreign object.  That critical head shake is what buries the barb into the tough tissue, not that macho rod ripping hookset.
 A fish thrashing on the surface can also be a problem.  Try to keep the fish underwater until you are ready to net the fish.  Most walleye fisherman know that netting a fish head first is the only way to go.  The angler leads the fish toward the net as the netter scoops it up.  If you discuss landing techniques ahead of time you will have more success.  Just as important, is communication.  Netting the fish takes teamwork and no one is a mind-reader.
 Also, make sure you are familiar with the net itself.  Look at the handle and see if it is extended all the way to make sure that you can reach the fish during the action.  What type of net do you have?  You have probably seen the cloth nets that have large holes in them to land trophy northern pike, but will they do the job on a 1 1/2 lb walleye?  Probably not!  Match you rtype of net with the type of fish that you are after.  Nothing is more frustrating than to have a large fish slip through your net or lie in the bottom of the rubber net like some over active pancake.  I prefer a Frabill net that is nylon coated with rubber.  This net allows me the tangle free operation of a rubber net, yet the capacity and the depth of a cloth or nylon net.  This net has caught  many a fish that would have been lost to more conventional nets.
 No one can avoid losing a few fish.  But these pointers should cut down the loss column appreciably, forcing you to come up with other alibis for coming home empty-handed.
 Every once in a while people will catch  a fish that they want to have mounted.  Most of the time, these fish are caught by youngsters or anglers who want to mount the biggest fish of their lives.  Here are a few tips if you want to take your catch to the taxidermist.
 The best care of fish starts with actual catching.  Use a net!  Anglers have a tendency, especially with larger fish, to club them over the head.  This ruins scales and can deform the head of the fish.  Similarly, gaffing a muskie or northern pike puts a large hole through the bottom of the mouth which is virtually impossible to repair without it showing.  Use a net to land the fish, then kill it quickly with a single sharp blow to the side of the head that will not show in the finished mount.
 As soon as possible after landing the fish, take color photographs of it.  Within about two hours of landing its colors will fade.  Fish do have different colors, depending on water and bottom conditions and what they've been eating.  A muskie taken from a sand bottom, for instance, has a distinctly different color from one taken from a mud bottom.  The photos help the taxidermist match the colors of your particular trophy.
 After killing the fish, wrap it in wet newspaper or burlap, being especially careful to protect the fins.  A lot of unnecessary work goes into repairing fins which have been torn or broken because of mishandling.  If you have ice, you can use it to cool the fish, but it isn't necessary.  Wet newspaper or burlap will cool the fish through evaporation on even the hottest day.
 If you can't get to a taxidermist right away, fish can be refrigerated for four to five days, or frozen for up to a year or so.  To freeze them, wrap in wet newspaper and put in a plastic bag.  Do not let the fish bend or curl in any manner in the freezer.  Once again, be sure to give extra attention to protecting the fins while in storage.
 The other alternative is to take that picture and measure the length and the girth (around the stomach)  and release the fish.  You then can contact your taxidermist and ask if he can do a fiberglass reproduction of your fish.  Many of these, are just exactly like the original mount.  This will allow that trophy fish to swim free and a chance for another angler to have the same thrill you experienced.  Give it a try.

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