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August 12, 2008

Cast Nets 101

Choose the right tool to pack 'em in your livewell.

Learning to Fly
Once you've decided on a net, you face the challenge of learning how to throw it. Plenty of fishermen can shoot a fly line 100 feet, but show me somebody who can  pancake a 14-foot net, and I'll be impressed.
The best technique I've come across for throwing a cast net is called the "triple load." Al Fernandez, previous owner of West Coast Cast Nets, in Cape Coral, Florida, originally showed it to me. This method works well because it spreads the net over your upper body in three parts (hence the name). When you throw the net, each load goes in a different direction, and it opens nearly automatically. Although this method will get you wet, it's the best way to consistently open a net - either right- or left-handed. The steps detailed here apply to right-handed throwers; just reverse them if you're a southpaw or need to throw left-handed due to conditions on the water. Remember, it really isn't as difficult as it sounds!  (Video tips on next page...)


1. Clear and organize the net, looping the hand line in 12-inch coils in your left hand. Place the horn in your left hand over the hand line. With the lead line at your feet, walk backward to extend and straighten the net.  
2. Grab the net with your right hand about a third of the way down from the horn. Gather that third of the net in a counterclockwise motion and transfer it to your left hand. For larger nets, repeat this step. (Nets under 10 feet may not require a second gathering.) When holding the net at waist level, the lead line should hang even with your ankles.  
3. Starting directly below the thumb of your left hand, reach down and bunch up another third of the net in your right hand. Place it under your left arm and over your left shoulder. (This is the toughest part to get the hang of, but once you master this awkward step, you're home free.)  
4. With your right hand, bring the lead line closest to you up and place it in your mouth. 
This step is optional. The original triple-load method doesn't involve holding the lead line in your mouth, but this does seem to help the net open better and was shown to me years ago by Tampa guide Capt. John Griffith (
5. Gather the final third of the net over your right shoulder. Grasping the lead line closest to you with your right hand, drop the load off your right shoulder into your right hand and pinch between your thumb and forefinger. You now have one-third of the net in your right hand, one-third hanging under your left arm and one-third over your left shoulder, and you're ready to throw.  
6. Position your body with your right shoulder perpendicular to the target area. Begin the cast by swinging your upper body and the net slightly forward; then, rotate back, swing forward and release  the net from your right hand - the rest of the net will follow.  



Next page: More tips and video