Use a net for bait and catch bigger gamefish.
We could probably do a decent web site and only talk about cast nets. We have found a few. There are also dozens of videos on YouTube and available from our own captain David Rieumont about using them. You can spend a lot of time on the water and never choose to use one. In fact, there are a fair number of great and respectable anglers that would not be caught dead trying to fool a fish by feeding them live (or dead) bait. Us? We are bait people, and living on the Gulf coast of Florida we are close to both fresh and salt water, and spend a good deal of our lives on, near, or with the water. If we are not fishing, we are talking about fishing or shooting videos about fishing or marketing our magazine about fishing. We are also live bait anglers.
So plastic people, fly-only anglers, and those with push-button tackle and compassion for those poor little sardines, move forward. Nothing happening here. If you are like a lot of people we know though, you would love nothing more than to use live wiggly whitebait next time you are fishing. Or shad for the peacock bass in our southern canals. For you?
Watch this short video on tossing a cast net:
Here are a few tips about cast nets that might help put live bait on your hook.
1. Find a friend who uses them. This is more important than any tip we can give you. Do not think you are gonna' learn on YouTube and be loading your bait-well in three hours. It ain't gonna' happen that way. All things we tell you from this point forward will be better done and considered and executed if you have a good friend that is dying to teach you this stuff.
2. Pick the right net. If you can, get a few. Deep water and bigger baits are best served by a large mesh and heavier lead weights. They need to sink faster if the bait is deeper, and usually the deeper bait is relatively bigger too, so the mesh can be larger. We provide a lot of detail about choosing mesh size and weight. We keep three or four nets clean and ready to use. They range from very tight mesh (1/4 inch) used in shallow water where small baits can ruin your day when they get caught by their kill plates to nets with 1" squares designed to catch mullets weighing two or more pounds each.
3. Do not buy a small net to start with. Buy at least an eight foot -- 3/8th inch mesh net for the first time you use it. Smaller nets are not – we repeat not – easier to use and they are not nearly as effective as an 8 or10 foot net. If you were our student we would get you started with a 10-footer. Your skills are not going to evolve from small net to real net; you are not gonna do it right with a four-foot castnet. We cannot throw small nets.
4. Learn to throw it and open it fully. Do it on your lawn if you have too, but do not do it on concrete. I have opened them in parking lots on gravel to teach people, and probably on the road a few times. But do as we say and not as we do and practice on the lawn until you can open it all the way. It is a skill that takes a lot of time and even more practice, so learn to throw the net correctly and you will change your fishing life.
5. If you are in water that is shallow enough, try to feel the net hit the bottom and start closing it. Making a little dirt stir often attracts other baits and the ones that are there start feeding on the stuff you kicked up.
6. Do not tie a loop knot around your wrist. It is the same reason you should never lift the anchor or drop the anchor with the line cleated -- you never want to tie yourself to something that weighs more than five pounds, which a net will when full of bait. Snag a net in an oyster bar or a bridge piling with that loop around your wrist strangling the blood flow to your hand and you will know why. Do not try it; you can trust us when we tell you not to use a slip knot on a cast net line.
7. Make loops in the line around your hand as you retrieve the net and be ready to throw it again. You can shake it, you can do anything you want to do, but if you do it with the entire line loose on the deck or the ground and you will be looking to tangle your next toss.
9. Learn the behavior and seasonal locations of your baits. When the water starts to get above 72 degrees, the baits are all over the bay where we live. In the cold of winter you can still find it, but it is around the pilings on the big bridges, and it is living deep. The bait community is like the fishing community and rarely hides secrets. Asking on our forums where people have been catching bait will put you on bait. Then all you have to do is chum, throw a perfect circle, and you will be on to the next step (catching bigger fish and catching them more often).
10. Keep your nets clean and soft. Once in a while we put a cup of fabric softener in the bottom of a five gallon bucket and half fill it with fresh water to soften them. It works, despite some newcomers to the sport not taking the old method seriously. But fabric softener or not, clean your nets. Not only will they not import the fragrance of dead sardines into your lives, but they will stay softer and healthier.