What Is the Difference Between a Cast Net and a Hoop Net?

When it comes to fishing nets, two common traditional types are cast nets and hoop nets. While they share some basic features, these nets work quite differently to catch fish. Cast nets are actively thrown by hand in a circular motion to surround fish. Hoop nets, on the other hand, remain stationary to passively trap fish swimming through the enclosure. By understanding when to use cast nets versus hoop nets, anglers can improve their catches.

This article clearly explains the distinguishing traits, ideal fishing applications, pros and cons, and effective use tips for both net types. With this straightforward guide, any angler can learn how to deploy the right nets for their situation. Selecting and rigging the proper net is the first step toward fishing success.

cast nets

Cast nets

A cast net is a circular fishing net with small weights distributed around its edge to cast it in a fashion similar to throwing a frisbee. These nets have radiating pockets of netting, which are dropped over schools of fish by swinging the arm in a throwing motion, allowing the weights to sink the perimeter while the fish become entangled in the pocket. Their light and compact nature makes cast nets convenient for fishermen to carry aboard small boats or toss from shore.

Hoop Nets

A hoop net is a fishing net that consists of a hoop or series of hoops covered in netting. Unlike a cast net, which is tossed by hand, hoop nets remain stationary in the water and catch fish by entanglement as they swim through the net enclosure. The hoops give the nets their circular shape and help them retain their form in current. They are designed to mostly passively trap fish swimming into them rather than being actively used like a cast net. Hoop nets vary in size, but larger kinds often have wings or lead to guide fish into the net opening, where they become stuck. These stationary nets are ideal for fishing channels or holding areas where fish passively congregate.

Key Differences Between Cast Nets and Hoop Nets

There are several important differences between cast nets and hoop nets that anglers should understand.

  • Catch Method: Cast nets are actively thrown by hand in a circular motion to immediately surround and trap fish. Hoop nets passively trap fish over time as they swim into the enclosed area.
  • Target Species: The active catch method of cast nets makes them ideal for schooling pelagic fish like herring, mullet, and shad. The passive trap approach of hoop nets works better for opportunistic bottom feeders like crabs, crayfish, and eels.
  • Portability: Cast nets are lightweight, compact, and easily thrown and retrieved by hand from shore or while wading. Hoop nets require more substantial anchoring equipment and gear to deploy and haul up.
  • Accessibility: Cast nets allow fishing in areas with limited boat access. Hoop nets require enough depth to be submerged.
  • Regulations: Regulations tend to be more stringent for hoop nets, given their prolonged trapping ability compared to the quick catch of cast nets.

By evaluating these key points of difference, an angler can determine when a cast net or hoop net is better suited to their priorities, target species, location, and fishing style. Selecting the right net is the first step to an effective fishing trip.

Pros and Cons of Cast Nets

Cast nets provide a versatile and easy-to-use fishing method for many anglers. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to consider when deciding if a cast net is the right choice.

Pros Cons
Inexpensive and compact for easy portability Takes practice to master proper throwing technique
Allow fishing close to shore and in areas with limited boat access Limited to shallow water where fish school near the surface
Quiet operation does not scare fish Risk of entanglement if net snags
Active fishing style and immediate catches Can be tiring to throw repeatedly
Minimal gear required Time-consuming to mend small tears
Can be used with little training Achieving optimal catch rates requires patience

Pros and Cons of Hoop Nets

Hoop nets offer passive fishing but have their own pros and cons to weigh.

Pros Cons
Allow time for other activities once deployed Require substantial anchoring equipment
Work in all tide and current conditions Need regular checking and cleaning
Capture opportunistic bottom feeders Demand heavy-duty poles and ropes
Require minimal monitoring once set up May require permits for use
Less physically demanding fishing method Risk losing net if improperly marked
Can disturb or harm trapped wildlife
Possibility of accidents if not clearly marked
cast netting

Choosing the Right Net for Your Needs

With knowledge of cast nets and hoop nets' divergent qualities, anglers can opt for the best-suited choice. Consider whether immediate catch or passive trapping is a higher priority and your patience level. Think about the targeted species' typical habitat: pelagic or structure-associated. Portability is key if fishing from shore or wading alone. Local ordinances may limit certain net sizes or only allow one type. Personal ability and health should also factor in - hoop net rigging may be safer or easier on the body in the long term. Fishing infrequently? Loan gear instead of buying. While neither net type is complex, choose the appropriate learning curve. Matching the right tool leads to great fishing experiences within one's priorities, skills, and environment. Understanding tools' nuances empowers anglers.

Tips for Using Cast Nets and Hoop Nets Effectively

Getting the most out of cast nets and hoop nets requires focused practice and adherence to key tips. By following these recommendations, anglers can optimize their net fishing success:

Tips for Cast Nets:

  1. Practice the throwing technique until you can achieve a full circular flip with the net perpendicular to the water.
  2. Use both arms in unison and follow through completely when throwing.
  3. Aim to land the cast net directly on top of fish schools.

Tips for Hoop Nets:

  1. Securely anchor hoop net lines to fixed points on shore or seabed.
  2. Position attractors like bait bags properly inside hoops to lure fish.
  3. Check the tide and current conditions before setting hoop nets.

General Tips:

  1. Release any unwanted or undersized catch quickly and gently.
  2. Thoroughly clean and dry nets after each use to prevent damage and rotting.
  3. Make repairs to any small tears in the netting right away to extend the gear lifespan.
  4. Store nets out of direct sunlight when not fishing to prevent UV damage.
  5. Follow all design best practices to get the most out of cast nets and hoop nets with each outing.


In conclusion, both cast nets and hoop nets have their place in an angler's toolkit, depending on the fishery, location, and intended catch. Cast nets provide active fishing fun with a satisfying throwing technique. Hoop nets take a more passive approach but require diligent setup and maintenance. Consider your priorities and put in practice time to master either net's nuances. With the right knowledge, conditions, and ethical care, both can fill stringers for generations of anglers to come.

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