Wow, asking what is the best cast net is indeed the $64,000 question. Every fisherman has his or her own priorities. When I catch bait for king mackerel fishing, I often catch bait in the ocean or other deeper water, therefore, my top priority is a net that sinks quickly. The sink rate can be enhanced in several ways: Being heavily weighted, smaller diameter netting, and a large mesh will all help a net sink faster.
Unfortunately, not every fisherman has the same priorities. For some fishermen it is most important not to ever gill bait. That means the mesh has to be smaller and even with everything else the same, the net sinks a little slower. However, If you are catching smaller bait, you have to use a smaller mesh.
Some fishermen catch bait exclusively in shallow water, so the sink rate isn’t particularly important to them. They may be more concerned with being able to throw the net a longer distance to avoid spooking baits or just prefer a lighter net they can easily throw. Net size is a factor too. In open areas a larger net often helps, but in confined areas only a smaller net works. There are also special regulations in some areas that limit net size and mesh size. With cast nets, everything is a matter of give and take.
Sink rate, net size and mesh size are the primary differences most fishermen see in cast nets. I like to add the diameter of the netting too, especially for deeper water as netting that is 25 percent larger can slow a net’s sink speed surprisingly.
Some fishermen think that adding weight to the lead line is the answer to sink rate and with more weight the net will sink faster. Unfortunately it isn’t that simple. With some smaller mesh sizes, the amount of weight actually has to be decreased, so the net doesn’t close up while sinking. Yes, you can add enough weight that it pulls the net closed while trying to pull it down through the water. The deep hole nets stay open better, but the extra drag from the webbing that keeps them open slows the sink rate.
Constructing the right cast net is a science but a bit of an inexact one. We have some generalisms, but there are very few absolutes. I catch live bait in several ways for several types of fishing and the short list below is what I use. I believe you will find this a good starting point. I use Betts Nets, so the model designations will be for them.
* Live bait (menhaden, mullets, etc.) for king mackerel – 10 foot net in 3/4 inch mesh. This net is my perfect combination of size and sink. Betts Super Pro model 22-10 or 22C-10, which has 1.7 pounds of weight per foot. The difference in the models is the 22C is a No Spook net.
* Live bait (shrimp, minnows, etc.) for inshore fishing from boat or shore – 6 foot net in 1/4 or 3/8 inch mesh. I carry both nets and switch depending on the size of the bait. My 3/8 inch mesh net has a pound of weight per foot and is a little easier to throw than my 1/4 inch mesh net which has 1.25 pounds of weight per foot. I have ordered a 1/4 inch mesh net that only has .75 pounds of weight per foot and believe I can throw it farther. There are times when the shrimp and mullet minnows are big enough to use, but not really big and the smaller mesh net catches them better and without gilling any minnows. The 3/8 net is an Old Salt PM-6 or No Spook 6C and the 1/4 net is simply called the 1/4 Mesh net and the number is 25-6. The 1/4 lightweight net is new and is in the Hi-Tider line as a HM-6.
* Live bait (shrimp, minnows, etc.) for inshore fishing from a kayak or surf fishing – 4 foot net in 1/4 or 3/8 mesh for all the same reasons as when fishing from a boat, plus the 4 foot net can be thrown from a seated position in a kayak. I also use the 4 foot net when catching bait from the beach in the ocean as I can throw it farther. I have also ordered one of the lighter Hi-Tider 1/4 inch mesh net to be able to throw it farther when catching bait from the beach in the ocean. The 3/8 mesh net is an Old Salt (PM-4) and the heavier 1/4 net is a 1/4 Mesh. There is not a 4 footer in the No Spook line.
Hopefully this will help you understand the dynamics of cast nets. There are numerous variables, but the basics can be recalled through this little ditty: Big mesh and heavy weight sink fast and catch big bait—Lighter weight and smaller holes catch shrimp and minnows for the flounder poles.
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