Casting Your Net for Success

Text By Jeffery A. Dunbar, FishDancer >>)))))”>


        One of the best opportunities offered by the winter season is the chance to hone your skills in angling tasks you take for granted. The FishDancer angling team often practices rig tying, course plotting and other key tasks in the comfort of our homeport. However, no skill lends itself better to off-season practice than that of cast netting. To consistently score large kingfish, live bait is a critical necessity, and having great net throwing skills makes acquiring those elusive baits easier when it counts. But before you can cast the net, you need to purchase one. Lets look at what an angler should look for in a cast net.

Atlantic Menhaden

A hook up is many times the result of good frisky live bait

            A 5/8-inch mesh, 10-foot, cast net - to be used primarily for cast netting pogies – is the standard size net used on the SKA circuit. When you consider the fact that many times a team invests $70,000 to $150,000 in their boat, electronics and other angling gear, it simply amazes us that many good anglers skimp on their nets. Sure, you can save a few bucks on a less expensive net, but for our needs the premium cast net – CALUSA – is well worth the extra dollars. During the early hours of tournament fishing literally hundreds of boats can converge on a very small area of ocean, seeking to catch the many times elusive pogies. Those who are properly equipped will spend less time, and score more baits, than those who are not. This in turn relates to more trolling time and hopefully more kingfish.

            During last season’s BellSouth Greater Jacksonville King Mackerel Tournament – which had over 1,000 boats participating – the FishDancer Fishing team was challenged to find bait. After slowly assessing the “usual spots” pogies tend to hand out, we had not even seen bait. We headed a bit further offshore and found pogies widely scattered. With the proper equipment we were fully “baited” and fishing well before the majority of the fleet. Since we run a single engine 200 HP 23-foot Century, we cannot compete with the larger twin-engine boats on speed alone, so we seek an edge wherever we can and cast netting is one area where we try to excel. During the 1999 Tournament Fisherman’s Championship tournament we had to run 27 miles to find bait and needed to quickly fill our live wells. The proper cast net equipment and techniques assisted us greatly.

            So how do local anglers properly equip themselves to efficiently and quickly capture menhaden? Local anglers should consider purchasing the BEST net they can afford. We believe if you are willing and able to spend on boats, motors, rods, reels, downriggers, electronics and the like, the effectiveness of each of these pieces of fishing equipment is enhanced by frisky live bait. The experience of the FishDancer Fishing Team is that Calusa is the best net we have ever used. Other net companies (West Coast Nets, Betts Nets, Netco, among others) make good products, but for price and performance Calusa is the net we would recommend. When seeking pogies you need a net that you can handle, one that sinks fast, can be thrown in deeper water and spreads to fullest diameter when thrown properly. The Calusa cast net meets or exceeds each of these requirements. Lets look at each one individually.



            Fast sinking nets designed to capture menhaden have a minimum 1.5 pounds of lead per diameter foot of net. This equates to a 10-foot net weighting 15 pounds dry. Add water weight after casting and the net can weigh in excess of 25 or 30 pounds. You MUST be able to properly throw the net to make the best use of it, so get the right net for the job as well as your skills. Add pogy weight and perhaps the net could weigh in excess of 100 pounds fully loaded. One time in 1998 the FishDancer team threw the net over a solid school of JUMBO pogies and had several hundred in the net. The weight of the net was too much for Nancy and me to pull in to the boat. We had to let about half of our catch go before we could haul the net in to the boat. We use a 10-foot, 5/8-inch mesh Calusa net for our SKA fishing. (I would love a 12-foot net but cannot throw it nearly as well as the 10-foot net.) Sometimes you will need to really “throw” your net – baits DO NOT always come right up to your boat. We would recommend being able to “cast” whatever net you have a minimum of 15 feet while keeping the spread. During the season last year it was necessary to throw the net far away from the boat in order to get baits.



            Sometimes the pogies are schooled up thick along the beach. During these times you can catch them with a dip net. Many times they are scattered – by boat traffic, weather, predators, tides, winds – and in deeper water. Some of our best catches have come from seeking pogies on the bottom along the beaches, in waters near 20 feet deep. When they are deep, pogies do not flip like they do when on the surface. They will appear as a brown spot in the water. Blind casting to these brown spots can be very productive in the right circumstances, but you need a net with a long HAND LINE. The Calusa hand lines are the best and longest we have seen. There is a pre-formed, adjustable loop to put over your wrist. (DO NOT FORGET TO ATTACH THE HAND LINE OR YOU NET COULD BE LOST.) If you do forget the hand line, the Calusa net floats, unlike West Coast or Betts. A nice feature of the net you hopefully will not need.



            A 10-foot net that, due to poor construction, only opens to a 14-foot diameter is actually worse than a good 7-foot net that fully opens to its 14-foot diameter. If the center of the net remains bunched, the effectiveness of the 10-foot net is minimized. There are several design positives in a good net. Panel construction is a must. Each section of the net is a separate panel, tied with reinforced knots to resemble a pie when laid out flat on the ground. DO NOT purchase a net that is not panel constructed. They will perform poorly and, although inexpensive, will yield POOR result. When properly thrown, a Calusa net will achieve nearly 100% of its diameter – a 10-foot net yields a 20-foot circle.

            Lead weights individually secured to the net are critical to a net’s performance. We seek hand-made versus machine-made nets. Calusa nets are 100% hand-made with the mono produced in Brazil.

            Whichever net you choose, learn how to throw it properly. This is a skill, which can be practiced at home and honed prior to heading out on the ocean. It is difficult to learn how to properly approach the bait, assess their movement – along with the winds and tides – and properly throw the net from a moving boat. Practice in your yard, a park, or anywhere there is grass. We would not recommend practicing on asphalt or concrete, as you will damage the mono of your net. We find the capturing of bait to be an exciting part of our fishing day and you can too, with the proper equipment and techniques. Visit for more information as well as on-line viewing of their instructional video on how to throw a cast net. Tight lines and studly pogies to all.


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