Mullet Pancakes

Cast Net Selection for the Upcoming Migration

FSF Staff April 26, 2017

Cast nets are a great tool for acquiring bait in large quantities, but like many aspects of sport fishing there’s no set standard and you’ll need to fully understand the slight nuances in cast net construction and design before making an educated purchasing decision. Over the coming months anglers will encounter large schools of mullet traveling down the coast and should take advantage of the scaly frenzy when given the opportunity.

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With 1 1/2" mesh and 1.5 pounds of lead per radius foot, the specialized 10-foot Cracker mullet net has a fast sink rate that's ideal for deep water applications. DoughertyPhotos.com

Unlike more glamorous species of baitfish like sardines and tinker mackerel, mullet won’t readily strike a quill rig so anglers must resort to a more rudimentary approach to secure a solid supply of offerings. Whether your goal is to catch fresh bait or freeze the fish for future use, mullet are extremely versatile offerings.

It might be hard to resist throwing on a school of finger mullet that swims by, but with a 1 1/2 inch mesh cast net designed for larger roe mullet you’re basically fishing a gill net and the results will not be pretty.

When purchasing a cast net there are several aspects you must take into consideration including your throwing abilities, target fish size, depth of water and prevalent weather conditions. Avid anglers who are constantly on the bite know there’s not a single cast net that will suffice for all scenarios, just like there’s no single rod and reel outfit for all species and applications. Catching bait with a cast net can be as simple or scientific as you choose to make it, and those who put in the extra effort certainly see the best results. With the right net your bait catching efforts will be efficient and successful, but without the proper net for the given conditions you probably won’t catch any bait at all and exhaust yourself with lackluster results.

It’s important you first decide what size mullet you are going to catch in your net. This is largely dependent on the size of mullet in your region and important for minimizing fish escaping through the mesh, or becoming gilled and stuck in the mesh. Additionally, the size of your mesh will also influence sink rate, so it’s not acceptable to simply choose a net with a small mesh and hope to catch bait both big and small. You’ll also need to show restraint when casting a net and let it rip only once you’ve spotted the ideal quarry. It might be hard to resist throwing on a school of finger mullet that swims by, but with a 1 1/2 inch mesh cast net designed for larger roe mullet you’re basically fishing a gill net and the results will not be pretty. It’s a fine line and you’ll want to select the largest mesh possible that won’t gill the target baitfish…that way you are afforded that fastest sink speed. Over the coming months, anglers will encounter various sized mullet from a few inches to giant mullet weighing a few pounds. Finger mullet in the 3 to 4 inch range are best targeted with 1/2 to 5/₈ inch mesh, while the largest mullet are routinely taken with 1 to 1 1/2 inch mesh. One of our go-to nets is a 10-foot Cracker Cast Net that features 1 1/₈ inch mesh that stretches to 2 1/4 inch mesh.

Once you have determined the size of baitfish you must select the appropriate net size, which is measured by overall length of the mesh once closed. A net labeled as an 8-footer opens up to a diameter of 16-feet. Smaller nets are lighter and easier to open fully, so if you’re just learning how to throw a net start with a 4- or 6-footer. The larger a cast net’s radius the more lead is used along the lead line, so bigger nets are harder to throw and more strenuous to throw repeatedly. If you have the ability, throw the largest net possible. However, a poor throw with a larger net isn’t as effective as a perfect pancake with a smaller net. Choose wisely and be honest with your abilities.

You’ll notice a series of weights along the bottom of the net. This is called the lead line and while the amount of lead will be somewhat determined by the size of the net, it’s also important to take into consideration the location you are throwing the net. It’s no surprise deeper water requires a heavier net to trap the fish before giving them the opportunity to escape under the falling mesh. Just like the variation in mesh size, manufacturers make precise adjustments in the spacing and weight of leads along the radius of the net to accommodate specific scenarios. Some manufacturers space lead 2-inches apart, while others are as much as 6-inches apart. In general, nets are available in 3/4, 1 and 1 1/2 pounds of lead per radius foot. If you become proficient with a net that works well in deep water you can certainly use it in the shallows, but a proven shallow water cast net won’t always get the job done in deeper depths.

Cast Net Cure:
Since cast nets are handcrafted from monofilament, they need extreme care. Rinse after every use and hang dry, but don’t let the lead line hang off the ground. Store your net in a dry environment and avoid exposing it to the sun for extended periods of time. Never store with bait residue stuck in the mesh, and always inspect and mend tears or cuts.

FWC Rules & Regulations
While there’s no recreational size limit on striped mullet, silver mullet or fantail mullet, you may not be aware that there is a 50 fish vessel limit from September 1 – January 3, and a 100 fish vessel limit from February 1 – August 31. Be sure to check for Special Acts of Local Application regarding more restrictive seasonal bag limits, nighttime closures, and net and mesh size limitations that exist for specific counties.

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