Cast Net 101: Choosing the Perfect Diameter for Any Skill Level

A cast net is a fishing net with weighted edges that is thrown by hand to trap and encircle fish. The size or diameter of the cast net you choose can majorly impact your success, so it's important to understand the pros and cons of different sizes.

Cast Nets: How Do They Work?

A cast net is made up of weighted lead rings and cords that come together at a central point. When thrown by an angler, the net spread out in a circular fashion due to the centrifugal force. The angler pulls the weighted bottom cords to close the net around the swimming fish, entangling and trapping them within the mesh holes. Cast nets are extremely effective fishing tools for catching bait fish, shrimp, and panfish in shallow water environments. The spread, or diameter, of the net plays a prominent role in determining what size fish it can effectively trap.

cast net throwing

Factors to consider when choosing a cast net diameter:

Fish size

The diameter, or spread, of the cast net is one of the most important considerations when determining what size fish the net can effectively trap. Generally, for catching smaller fish species like shad, anchovies, and panfish, a net spread between 6 to 8 feet is ideal. These mid-sized nets offer a good casting radius as well as small enough mesh holes that minnow and panfish cannot escape once caught in the net. Larger fish such as carp spotted sea trout, and croaker usually require an 8 to 10-foot spread net to properly entangle and hold them without excessively tangling the net's cords. Wider diameter nets are often necessary to cast over and sufficiently envelop large schooling bait fish.

Casting range

The casting distance of a net largely depends on its diameter, with wider spreads allowing for greater throwing ranges. Generally, 6 to 8-foot diameter nets can be thrown around 20 to 30 feet, giving anglers enough range to reach schooling bait fish from shore or a shallow watercraft. However, these smaller diameter nets require a fluid casting motion with accurate aim in order to successfully envelop swift minnows and panfish. In contrast, 8 to 10-foot spread nets can typically be cast up to 40 feet and beyond, making them a great option for casting at larger schools of bait out in deeper water. The greater catching surface area of these wider nets also helps offset a less accurate throw. Therefore, larger-diameter nets tend to offer both a greater casting radius and a margin for error compared to mid-sized cast nets.

Ease of use

The diameter of the cast net also affects how easy or difficult it is to use effectively. In general, smaller diametercast nets between 6 to 8 feet are easier for beginners to learn but more challenging for experienced cast netters looking to reach bait further offshore. This is because their smaller size and weight make them easier to control and throw properly, which is important for a new angler still building arm strength and accuracy. However, experienced cast netters may prefer the greater casting distance and catching power of an 8 to 10-foot spread cast net, even though controlling and properly throwing the swing of a larger net requires more skill and practice. Larger diameter nets also tend to be slightly more taxing to haul in fully loaded with heavy catches.

Cast net diameter recommendations

6 to 8 feet for smaller fish

After considering the various factors in choosing a net cast diameter, like fish size, casting range, and ease of use, we recommend a 6- to 8-foot spread for anglers primarily targeting smaller fish species. Nets in this size range offer the best combination of panfish and baitfish casting features. They are easier to control and less physically taxing, making them ideal for beginners still working on their form and technique. However, even experienced cast netters who mainly target minnows and panfish will find that mid-sized nets' balance of size, weight, and casting distance is well-suited for their needs. The mesh size of 6 to 8-foot cast nets is also generally small enough to adequately entangle and hold smaller and quicker fish without becoming excessively cumbersome to haul in. Therefore, anglers fishing for shad, anchovies, and panfish will often be happiest with a cast net with a 6- to 8-foot spread.

cast net

8 to 10 feet for larger fish

For anglers primarily targeting larger baitfish and gamefish, we would recommend an 8 to 10-foot spread cast net. These slightly wider diameter nets offer a number of critical features needed for effectively catching larger fish. The greater casting radius of 8 to 10-foot nets allows anglers to reach schools of bigger bait that may be further offshore. Their larger circumference also provides more surface area to sufficiently cover and envelope large bait balls. Meanwhile, the heavier weight and larger mesh size of these nets allow them to adequately entangle and withstand the stronger thrashes of larger fish without tangling as easily. The extra power and casting distance afforded by wider diameter nets can also help offset a less accurate throw when aiming for bigger bait. Overall, anglers casting for carp, shad, spot tail bass, and other larger fish species will find that 8 to 10-foot diameter cast nets provide the optimal attributes for catching volumes of these more substantial aquatic targets.


In the end, the optimal diameter for cast net comes down to your personal target species, skill level, and casting needs. However, after considering the factors involved, like fish size, casting range, and ease of use, we find that most anglers will be happiest with a net spread within a relatively narrow band of 6 to 10 feet. Nets around the middle of this range from 7 to 9 feet generally offer the best all-around performance for a variety of fish sizes and experience levels. But by understanding how diameter influences the functionality of your cast net, you can confidently choose the specific spread that offers attributes tailored towards your fishing goals and skill set. After enough practice and experience, you may own cast nets of various diameters that excel at catching certain types of fish. But ultimately, the best-cast net is the one that works best for your unique fishing style and target species.


Q: Can a beginner use an 8 to 10-foot cast net?

A: While an 8 to 10-foot cast net is more challenging for beginners to control, most anglers can learn to use a larger net effectively with enough practice. Start with a 6 to 8-foot net until you've mastered the basic technique, then move up in size.

Q: Is a bigger cast net always better?

A: No, a net too large for the targeted fish species or your ability level can be difficult to control, resulting in smaller catches. Match your net's diameter to your fishing needs.

Q: What is the maximum cast net diameter?

A: Commercial cast nets can reach 30 to 50 feet in diameter, though most recreational anglers use between 6 to 12-foot nets. Anything over 12 feet becomes very heavy and difficult to cast and retrieve.

Q: How much weight do cast nets add per foot?

A: In general, each additional foot of diameter adds around 2 to 3 pounds of weight to a cast net. So going from an 8-foot to a 10-foot net could add 4 to 6 extra pounds from the lead-tying weights.

Read More