How to Safely Catch Fish In Ponds (Top Methods)

We are 100% reader supported. We may earn commission at no extra cost to you if you buy through a link on this page. Read our disclosure.

Share this page!

Though tedious, catching fish is sometimes a necessary step in pond cleaning, maintenance, and general repairs.

Every fish pond owner will, at one point, have to remove fish from their pond. Though potentially tedious, this is a necessary step in thorough pond cleaning, maintenance, and general repairs. It may also be a means to simply reduce the fish density in your pond. With proper planning and with the right tools, stress for both the fish and the pond owner can be kept at a minimum.

It may be tempting to simply leave the fish in your pond while checking off tasks in your annual cleaning list. This can ultimately be more dangerous for your fish, however, as it can take just one disturbance to cause accidents. They may be forced to hide in places where they can get stuck or wounded, attempt to jump out of your pond, or become stressed enough to compromise their immunity.

To ensure that the entire fish removal process proceeds smoothly, you will need to plan ahead and invest in the right tools. The steps you take and the tools you use will depend on a few things: your purpose for removing the fish, the size of your pond, how many fish you will have to remove, and the size of your fish. Keep in mind that, once you have removed your fish, they must be provided with proper conditions to ensure that they survive.

Do I Need to Drain My Pond To Catch Fish?

A drained pond
You need to drain your pond if you want to remove all of your fish to do a thorough clean or make repairs. Ken Dyck / CC BY 2.0

If you are simply removing fish to reduce the population in your pond, then it is not necessary to drain it. Removing a single individual for inspection will likewise not require draining, but must be done with caution so that you don’t accidentally fall into your pond!

If you intend to remove all of the fish to thoroughly clean your pond or make repairs, then you will have to take this step. Drain your pond until about a foot of water is left so that fish can be caught more easily. While draining, remove potted plants and aquatic baskets that might get in the way.

Take note that you may need some of this pond water to fill a portion of your fish tank (or whatever enclosure you are transferring your fish to). If the water is relatively clean, you can use it to fertilize some of your garden plants! You can also use the water to fill up transport containers or a temporary holding area for your fish.

Catching Fish Using Nets – Which Is Best?

To safely catch your fish, you will need to make use of the proper types of fishing nets. A long-handled fishing net with a tightly wound fine mesh should work best for most ornamental pond fish.

Make sure that the mesh size is small enough to prevent fish fins or scales from getting caught in the holes (about ¼ inch or less for koi). Nets with a larger grid or a knotted mesh may injure your fish.

In terms of depth, the net should also be shallow enough so that your fish don’t get entangled in it. The size of the net itself would depend on the size of your fish or on how many you will need to catch at one given time.

A catfish in a fishing net
A fishing net should be shallow enough so that your fish don’t get entangled in it. Image by Deedster from Pixabay

You may also opt to use a sock net (below), which is the net of choice for koi breeders, to remove individual fish. This is a special type of net that will allow koi to slide in the same direction when being transferred to another tank. This effectively prevents injury by ensuring that fins don’t get caught in the opposite direction. 

Aquarium Fish Net, Waterproof Soft Fish Transfer Net Long Koi Tansfer Mesh Basket with 20-inch Long...
  • 【Soft Mesh Net】The fish go in with the water from the heads, and the net tail drags the water out together, allowing the fish to swim...
  • 【Semi‑permeable Fishing Net】The blue part above is impervious canvas, and the black part is permeable nylon net. The semi‑permeable...
  • 【High Quality】The handle is made of ABS engineering plastic, high hardness, non‑slip, , lightweight and rust proof, with fine nylon...

To safely net fish, slowly and carefully submerge the fishing net at an angle that would prevent it from displacing too much water. Place the net underneath the fish that you would like to catch, and encourage the fish to move further inside it (should be easier by a wall or edge).

Lift the net gently, without abrupt movements, to prevent the fish from getting stressed. Quickly transfer the fish to an aerated tank or transfer container, preferably with a mesh cover to prevent it from jumping out.

How to Remove Smaller Fish

A seine net with small fish in
A fine seine net can be used to force small fish into one area of the pond, making it easier to remove them. woodleywonderworks / CC BY 2.0

Small fish that quickly dart around your pond can be trickier to remove than large fish. You may need a finer mesh net to prevent them from slipping through the holes or getting injured. Once the larger fish are removed, drain your pond until just 6 – 8 inches (15 – 20 cm) of water remains. This should make it easier to scour the water’s surface with a net. A fine seine net (below) can be used for this purpose as you can drag it across the entire pond and force fish into one area.

SaleBestseller No. 1
Frabill Seine Net 4'X12' Poly Black Net
  • Frabill | Trusted By Anglers Since 1938
  • Special poly netting repels water and dries quickly | Quarter-inch mesh | Black color adds camouflage
  • Heavy-duty floats won't crush or break off | Evenly spaced floats and weights for uniform spread and tracking

You can opt to use a small tub or bucket as well. Slide these into the water at a 45-degree angle. Water should slowly flow into the container, ideally carrying some small fish. You may also move the container underneath a school of small fish and gently lift it up.

It may be easier to encourage fish to enter the container if you are able to corner them. To ensure that you don’t miss out on any individual fish before fully draining your pond, make sure that you remove all floating leaves and debris beforehand.

How to Safety Handle Caught Fish

A person holding a fish
Improper handling can be dangerous for your fish. Avoid holding them unless you’re a handling expert. Image by Michal Dziekonski from Pixabay

It may be tempting to try and hold your fish once you’ve removed them from the water or transferred them into a container. Unless you’re an expert at handling fish, it would be best to avoid holding them with your own hands. Only do so if you must examine them for parasites, injuries, or diseases.

Keep in mind that improper handling can be dangerous for your fish. If they manage to jump out of your grip and land on a hard surface, the resulting injuries can be fatal. Consult an expert or a fish veterinarian in case of any fish removal or handling mishaps.

Angeline L
About the author

Angeline L

I'm a passionate researcher and scuba diver with a keen interest in garden plants, marine life, and freshwater ecology. I think there’s nothing better than a day spent writing in nature. I have an academic and professional background in sustainable aquaculture, so I advocate for the responsible production of commercial fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic plants.

Read more about Pond Informer.

2 thoughts on “How to Safely Catch Fish In Ponds (Top Methods)”

  1. I’m a purist and if you’re the same trolling isn’t for you. If you like to personally hook the fish yourself and unhook it yourself this will not happen if your trolling. It can be boring whizzing round the ocean which in most in lumpy seas waiting waiting waiting. It’s not like sitting on a bank or shore and quietly taking in the wildlife and waiting for your float to bob under. There is no finesse in this type of fishing no guile just pulling a lure along.

  2. WOW!! If you like to personally hook the fish yourself and unhook it yourself this will not happen if your trolling.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.