If you like to catch your own live bait you need a cast net. These throw nets have been around since the beginning of recorded history and for good reason. Relatively simple in design, a large net can cover an area of up to 28 feet in diameter. Nets are easy to transport, easy to maintain and require minimal effort to use.
Cast nets are measured by their radius and if you have never used a net its best start small, a 4 to 5 foot net is perfect when learning the methods of casting. All nets come with instructions on casting the net but don't expect to get it right from the first throw. Learning to use the net take a little time but the time is worth the effort, the net will pay for itself many times over. Once you have mastered a smaller size you may want to try a larger one. Six to eight footers are the most popular among weekend fisherman and are very effective. We recommend a Betts Hi-Tider Cast Net 8ft Mono 3/8" Mesh Box, they are reasonably priced and hold up well.
The most important point to keep in mind when selecting a net is the bait size you are targeting. The bait size will dictate the required mesh size of the net. Mesh is the size of tied squares that make the net. A larger mesh allows smaller bait to escape while capturing larger bait. A net with 1 inch mesh is generally consider to be a mullet cast net and 1/4 inch mesh would be used to catch bait as small as minnows. If you are targeting finger mullet, shrimp, shiners, and the like, a 3/8 inch mesh works great.
So how do you know where to cast to catch bait? In many cases bait can be seen working the surface, meaning disturbances or eddies created by bait movement are visible on the surface. In shallow clear water bait can be seen, move slowly in order to get within casting range because if you can see them, they can see you. Use these techniques for catching bait fish of all sizes including large mullet, mud minnows, and pin fish. For other types of bait such as golden shiners or shrimp, baiting a spot to cast on may be required.
Regardless of the technique used to catch bait, you should consider what might be under the water which could snag or tangle the net, and avoid casting onto oyster beds, rocks, and debris covered bottoms. Unfortunately nets will become snagged so before you use brute force to pull the net free, try working your hands around the outer edges of the net (if it can be reached) that may free-up part of the net if not all.
Inevitably tears in the net will occur; many small repairs can be done with monofilament line or even sandwiching the tear between two pieces of duct tape. However, if the tear is too large or the effectiveness of the net is compromised, replace to net.
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