When fishing, acquiring bait can get expensive and at times, or impossible as your local bait shop may be out when you get there. Having the ability to secure your own bait when you need it, is a valuable skill set. There are several methods of catching your own bait, but for this article, we will be discussing throwing a cast net to catch bait.
What is a Cast Net?
A cast net, also called a throw net, is a net used for fishing. It is a circular net with small weights distributed around its edge.
The net is cast or thrown by hand in such a manner that it spreads out while it’s in the air before it sinks into the water. This technique is called net casting or net throwing. Fish are caught as the net is hauled back in. This simple device is particularly effective for catching small bait or forage fish, and has been in use, with various modifications, for thousands of years.
Contemporary cast nets have a radius which ranges from 4 to 12 feet. Only strong people can lift the larger nets once they are filled with fish. Standard nets for recreational fishing have a four-foot hoop. Weights are usually distributed around the edge at about one pound per foot (1.5 kilograms per meter). Attached to the net is a hand line, one end of which is held in the hand as the net is thrown.
The net is retrieved by pulling on the hand line, which is attached to a swivel at the top of the net. From this swivel a number of lines run down to the lead weights attached to the bottom or outside circle of the net. As the hand line is pulled these lead lines close the net on the bait by drawing the lead line up towards the top of the net.
Cast nets work best in water no deeper than their radius, any deeper and the bait will likely be able to swim out from under the net before it can sink over them. Casting is best done in waters free of obstructions. Reeds cause tangles and branches can rip nets, rocks, oyster shells and barnacles are all damaging to your nets.
You may choose to stand with one hand holding the hand line, and with the net draped over the other arm so that the weights dangle, or, with most of the net being held in one hand and only a part of the lead line held in the other hand so the weights dangle in a staggered fashion (approximately half of the weights in the throwing hand being held higher than the rest of the weights).
The line is then thrown out to the water, using both hands, in a circular motion rather as in hammer throwing. The net can be cast from a boat, or from the shore, or by wading.
How to Throw a Cast Net
There are several methods to throwing a cast net. Here are a couple of videos that give some great tips and instructions. I find it much easier to watch someone who knows what they are doing than to read a list of instructions. Watch these folks and just try to copy their techniques.
Cast nets come in a wide range of sizes from 3ft diameter on up. My best advice is to start small and work your way up until you get comfortable. Accuracy is much more important than size when it comes to throwing a cast net. If the net is too big for you to throw it correctly or accurately, you won’t catch much bait and you’ll just end up frustrated. I know, I’ve been there done that.
You want to be able to hit your target (bait) and have the net open up to full circle. It takes practice and you can even practice in your yard to get the hang of it first. Then you can move on to the water and practice on real bait. It will take some practice to spot bait, and to anticipate their movements when you throw the net at them. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll have the ability to catch fresh live bait when you need it, not just when the bait shop has it. And for a lot less money 😉
What Can You Catch with a Cast Net?
You can catch pretty much anything that swims that will fit inside the diameter of your cast net. Larger fish are usually too fast and too wary for you to catch, but sometimes one gets careless or distracted by chasing the same bait you’re trying to catch, and ends up in your net. Check out the article on the best live baits for surf fishing here.
Bait is what you’re after and the cast net is great for catching bait fish, shrimp and crabs. Minnows, shad and perch in fresh water to mullet, mud minnows, shad, shrimp, croaker, pinfish and more in saltwater. If you can find where the bait is hanging out, chances are, you can catch it with a cast net.
Best Places to Catch Bait with a Cast Net
Finding the bait will of course be key, and finding it in a location you can get close enough to throw your cast net. In fresh water, you can find bait around piers and boat docks, along shorelines and up in small feeder creeks. Be aware of underwater snags and obstructions. They can foul and tear your net, which will end your bait catching day.
In saltwater, look along shorelines, piers, boat docks, on the edges of channels and along grass beds. Another good way to find bait concentrations is to watch for birds either sitting on the water or diving into the water. They are looking for bait just like you, and they do it for a living, literally.
Catch some Bait and go Fishing
So, watch some videos, get you a cast net and get to practicing. Once you get the hang of it, go catch you some fresh bait and go fishing. You’ll save some money and be able to get bait even when the bait shops may be out. Also, it can be fun. Kind of like hunting. Catching bait can become as much sport as the actual fishing itself.
As always, try to leave it cleaner than you found it. Be safe, enjoy the journey, and good fishing.