There is an old saying among the Florida fishing pros that if you want to be a good Florida fisherman, you must be able to throw a cast net.
Truer words were never spoken. There is much to be gained by throwing a net. Plentiful (and free) bait for the inshore and outside, plus shrimp and fish to eat.
Many of us see the pros tossing those big 12-foot nets and know that we could never manage that, but maybe you won’t have to. As I have grown older, my net has shrunk (among other things) and I now am down to a net with a seven-foot diameter. If you have never thrown one, you may want to begin with one as small as four feet.
These days, there is plenty of instruction on Youtube so it is not all that difficult to learn. Give it a try. If you are a person who has no patience for fishing, then netting may be for you. A cast net may be used from any dock, pier, sea wall or boat or while wading the rivers or surf. In our area, there are successful fishermen who only use a net.
Some years back I met a fellow who regularly drove from Orlando to Ormond-by-the-Sea to cast net the surf. He was so good at taking flounders from the waves, he was making the surf fishermen mad.
When you begin, mullet will be your first target. Large mullet and small mullet are all good to eat either fried or smoked. Finger mullet can be cleaned, rolled in corn meal and fried to resemble smelt from the Great Lakes. Very good.
Recently we had a strong shrimp run in the Halifax River and Norm Echelberry and I were down off Big Tree Road to try our luck along with about 30 other boats. Our shrimp runs draw folks from all over the state. Once, back in the 1980s, I netted 160 pounds under the Granada Bridge from the sea wall. (Caution, you must have a marine products license to take more than a five-gallon bucket full per day.)
Over the years I have netted many different types of fish, including a seven-fish school of sheepshead that came up in a single cast. When our children were young, I maintained a great aquarium filled with the interesting things I pulled up in my cast net. Before you fish with a net, check the state regulations to see which species you may take by net.
I would recommend you buy a monofilament net with three-eights inch openings, which will allow you to catch shrimp and fish. Nets with larger mesh are called mullet nets and are only good for larger fish. Usually cast nets are easy to find at garage sales and most of those have seldom if ever been used.
Being a net fisherman means there will be no upkeep, clean up or expense. Pick up a cast net and get into the game. Florida has so much seafood to take and much of it can be had with a net.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.