Why so many nets?
While sounding simple and understated, the reason is that no one cast net is perfect for everyone and certainly not for every situation. There are a handful of factors that influence cast net performance and these need to be understood before selecting one. Let’s cover the basics and hopefully the need for different nets for different applications will become clear.
There is even a little confusion regarding determining the size of cast nets. Cast nets are measured between the collar or neck (the ring the pickup lines slide through) and the lead line. When spread into a circle, a net would spread to twice this measurement. A 4 foot cast net will spread to a circle that is 8 feet across and a 12 foot cast net will open to a circle that is 24 feet across.
There is a little weight in the mesh that makes up a cast net, the pickup lines and the rope used to retrieve it, but the weight measurement fishermen are concerned with is the amount of lead per foot. This is expressed as 1 pound per foot, 1.5 pounds per foot and so on.
Weight helps a cast net sink, but it has to be a balance with the net size and mesh size (discussed below). Too much weigh can make a net close before it reaches the bottom in deep water. Many fishermen consider lighter nets easier to throw and heavier nets more difficult to throw. There is no debate that throwing a heavier net tires the fisherman faster. While not significant with small cast nets, a dry net is lighter than a wet net. This increases with larger nets that have more mesh to hold water.
Mesh size is the size of the hole in each mesh. This is important as larger mesh allows smaller baits and lots of water to easily pass through. It sinks quicker than a smaller mesh with an equal amount of weight, but won’t catch smaller baits. Mesh size is expressed as a fraction and ranges from 3/16 to 2-1/2 inches.
Unfortunately some cast net manufacturers measure the mesh in different ways, which adds confusion to this measurement. The preferred mesh measurement for cast nets is what is considered the bar or open measurement. This is the distance between adjacent parallel strands of the net when it is open in small squares.
The other mesh measurement is the stretch or closed measurement. This is the distance between the ends of a single mesh that is drawn closed. The stretch measurement is taken from the inside of the knot at one end of the mesh and the outside of the knot at the other end of the mesh. The stretch measurement, which is used more often with gill nets than with cast nets, should be twice the distance of the bar measurement. Therefore, a net that is a 1/2 inch bar measurement would be 1 inch as a stretched mesh measurement.
A cast net should also be measured by the diameter or thickness of the individual strands. While this relates to strength, with thicker stands being stronger, it also affects the sink rate as the thicker strands have more resistance in water and will sink slower with equal weight. Thinner diameter netting is usually softer, and sinks quicker, but will not be as strong as thicker netting and sometimes, like with mullet nets, the strength is critical. This is a personal choice.
QUALITY OF NETTING:
Unfortunately, not all netting is of the same quality. Much like the opportunity to choose fatty, medium fat or lean hamburger, there are different qualities of netting. Soft, yet still strong is preferred, but there are nets made of netting that is hard and springy. These nets have their place too. They are much less expensive and many fishermen consider them a good option for throwing in areas where it is likely to hang the net on an underwater obstruction.
It is possible to affect the quality of the netting in a cast net. There are undoubtedly other factors that also affect wear and strength, but cast nets should never be washed with dish detergents or other cleaners that have grease cutting chemicals. Cast nets are made of monofilament, which is a petroleum based plastic, and grease cutters will dry, harden and weaken the net. Clean fresh water is the best cleaner for cast nets.
Sometimes a cast net that has gotten dry and springy can be rejuvenated. This won’t work with lower quality netting, but many timers a premium net that has dried out and become stiff can be rejuvenated by soaking it for a few day in a bucket of fabric softener and water. I use Downy and put two big slugs in a 5 gallon bucket, then let the net soak for 3 days to a week. Be sure to rinse the net well before using it to catch bait.
The type of construction is a big factor in cast net performance. Smaller cast nets may be made from a single piece of netting, but larger cast nets are made of panels that are sewn together with horizontal or vertical seams. The panels that are added with horizontal seams have more netting than is needed at the top by the collar and it is simply gathered in. This can be a lot of netting and can be difficult to hold or uncomfortable in the hand. However, these nets are easier to make and cost significantly less.
Cast nets made from panels joined vertically are the most efficient, but are also the most expensive. They are made of 4 to 6 pie-shaped panels, cut from premium netting. This allows removing any excess netting, which makes the net less bulky, easier to hold, and helps it sink quicker by reducing resistance. The premium netting and extra labor to cut and sew the seams precisely are what increases the cost.
CAST NET COLORS:
Most cast nets are made of monofilament and monofilament comes in colors, so why not have colored cast nets? Several companies make cast nets in greens and blues and there are fishermen who believe one of these colors is critical to their ability to catch bait. They are convinced that a certain color disappears or is more natural in their water and that other colors or clear netting spooks the bait while sinking through the water.
I don’t believe the big difference in the cast nets is actually the colors, but that the process used to add the colors removes all shine from these nets. These nets don’t flash in the air and that lets them get out over spooky baitfish and land before the bait realizes they have been thrown. They also disappear quickly sinking into deeper water, but I believe landing on spooky bait without scaring it is the primary key to their success.
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