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Fishing has long been a favorite pastime for people all around the world, with various methods and techniques captivating anglers for centuries. One of the most thrilling and proficient techniques in the angling world is cast net fishing, a mastery that rewards the devoted angler with bountiful baitfish and awe-inspiring hauls of larger aquatic species. Although the art of cast net fishing presents a formidable challenge for novices, persistence and diligent practice can elevate you to the ranks of seasoned professionals.
What is a Cast Net?
A cast net is a lightweight mesh net designed for casting over a wide area to catch fish and other aquatic creatures. These nets are particularly well-suited for capturing schools of fish, making them an essential tool for many anglers. All cast nets share a basic circular design with weights around the edge and a rope center, but they come in various types tailored for different purposes.
Types of Cast Nets
Various cast nets cater to distinct fishing scenarios. A versatile choice for most anglers is the 7-9 foot diameter net with rectangular bar mesh, providing both adaptability and visual clarity. These nets excel at capturing sunfish, catfish, perch, and a variety of other species.
When targeting larger fish like bass, pike, or muskie, a 10-12 foot net with finer mesh (1/4 inch or 6mm) becomes essential, as it prevents these more substantial fish from escaping. Circular mesh nets are an alternative option, often favored by some anglers for their durability. Adjustable mesh nets, capable of expanding or contracting, boast remarkable flexibility, allowing for tailored catching strategies across different fish sizes.
Among the specialized nets are seine nets, designed for reeling in copious amounts of smaller fish, gill nets that ensnare fish swimming through their mesh, and cast net lights featuring built-in illumination for nighttime fishing adventures.
Preparing for Throwing a Cast Net
Before attempting to throw a cast net, there are a few crucial preparatory steps. First, make sure you have the appropriate net for the job in good working order. Inspect the net for any tears or rips that could allow fish to escape, and keep a spare net on hand in case of any issues.
Next, verify that the correct weights or net weights are attached to the net's edge. Adequate weights ensure the net sinks quickly and encloses the fish. Without them, the net will not perform effectively, and you may need to adjust the weights depending on water conditions.
Ensure your casting area is free of obstacles such as branches, rocks, or debris. You need open space for an unobstructed cast. Keep the wind direction in mind and try to cast with the wind at your back whenever possible for the best results.
Have your bait or lure ready to chum the water and attract fish to your casting spot. Use a buoy or marker float to guide your casts over the fish. Most importantly, practice your casting technique before heading out. The more you practice, the more accurate and effective your casts will be in the field.
How to Throw a Cast Net
Casting and using a cast net effectively takes a fair amount of practice to master. Here are some key tips for how to throw a cast net:
- Keep your arm extended and hold the net handle upright. Do not clench the handle in your fist.
- Take a smooth step towards the target area as you start bringing the net overhead and behind you. This will give you momentum for a powerful throw.
- Bring the net up and forward in one swift motion, snapping your wrist downwards to release the net off to one side rather than straight forward. This causes the net to float up and spread out.
- Release the net when your arm is fully extended and follow through across your body. Release it with your fingers and wrist, not just your arm. This imparts a tight spiral motion to the net.
- To close the net, jerk your hand up while sweeping it out to the sides in an arc. Then jerk downwards to pull the edges together, trapping any fish inside. Practice the timing of these movements.
- Ensure you clear any obstacles or get tangled in overhanging branches after throwing the net. Stand ready to move fast if needed!
Retrieving Your Catch
Retrieving your catch after a successful cast requires skill and practice. Keep these tips in mind as you haul in a full net:
- Make sure you've cleared any obstacles around the net before picking it up. Reach down and grab opposite corners of the net to lift it.
- Lift the net evenly on all sides to keep the fish inside and prevent them from flopping out. Pull the net up and towards you in one smooth motion.
- Once the net is out of the water, give it a shake to drain excess water. Then, start unraveling and folding one side of the net over the other, wrapping the fish and contents in the center.
- Place the wrapped net and its contents into a mesh bag, live well tank, or bucket designated for holding fish. Ensure there is adequate water and oxygen for any live fish.
- Untangle any lines, hooks, or other snags caught in the net before rerolling and repacking it for the next use. Inspect for any tears or holes and perform minor repairs as needed.
- Keep extra gear on hand, such as gloves, knives, mesh bags, or string, in case you catch a large or hard-pulling haul that requires more effort to contain. Practice will make retrieval quicker and easier.
- Some cast nets have built-in handles, pockets, or hoists that facilitate easier lifting and emptying. This specialized gear can be extremely helpful when dealing with big catches.
Common Mistakes Made While Throwing
As with any technique, there are several common mistakes to be aware of when learning to throw a cast net. Some of the most frequent errors include:
- Releasing the net too soon or too late. Practice the timing of following through with your arm extended as you release the net. Releasing at the proper moment is key to allowing the net to float up and spread out effectively.
- Not leaving enough slack in the net. If the net does not have enough time to settle and float up on the surface, the fish can easily swim out from under it before you have a chance to close it. With practice, you'll get better at estimating how much slack is needed.
- Casting the net in the wrong direction. Be sure to release the net in a way that it floats up and spreads out over the fish, not off to the side. The net may end up tangled or sunk if not released properly.
- Trying to close the net too quickly. The key is allowing the net to float up and settle around the fish before closing it. If closed too fast, the fish can swim out from under the net before it's fully closed. Take your time and close the net in a smooth motion.
- Not clearing obstacles when retrieving the net. Be aware of your surroundings, especially overhanging branches, so you can pull the net out without snagging on anything. This may require stepping to the side or moving to a clearer area.
- Not having the proper weights attached. If the net does not have enough weight attached around the edges, it will not sink effectively and the fish can easily swim away before the net fully covers them. Take the time to adjust weights as needed for different conditions.
- Lack of practice. The only way to truly master casting and using a cast net is through regular practice. Find a body of water and practice casting and retrieving in an open area without obstructions. Practice makes perfect!
With awareness of these common mistakes and continued practice, you'll be throwing and handling cast nets like a pro in no time.
Cast nets may require more skill than other fishing gear, but they also offer diverse and rewarding fishing experiences. As technology continues to revolutionize fishing, cast nets remain a timeless tool that requires practice to unlock their full potential. So grab some nets, and weights, and dedicate time to mastering the art of cast net fishing. Your patience and persistence will pay off with bountiful catches and unforgettable memories.