After purchasing a cast net, the first question that crosses an angler’s mind is usually what exactly is the darn thing good for? What species of fish can you collect? How big of a fish can you catch? Is it legal to cast net in my area? Fortunately, these answers aren’t all that complicated. Cast nets are becoming popular enough that fishing regulations cover their use or prohibition in most areas. The size of fish you can catch is generally determined by the size of your net. Last, but not least, a cast net is good for having a whole lot of fun. Here’s a list of the top 10 species to target with your new fishing equipment.

1. Minnows

These little guys are the perfect starter for any cast netting career. Go after them with the smallest possible mesh net you can find and use them as bait fish with a traditional fishing rod later. It’s fairly incredible how long you can keep a minnow alive in a bucket of water if you change out the water every now and then.

2. Shiners

These diminutive fish are the undisputed kings of bait fish. Finding a good-sized school of them can provide you with live bait for a long time. If the season goes on longer than the bait is lively, freeze the little guys and use them at your leisure. They work just as well for ice fishing.

3. Perch

If it is legal to go after game fish with a cast net in your area, perch are a fine species to get started with. These fish breed in large numbers and tend to school together. If they’re small, it can be tough to get enough with a rod to make a meal, but a cast net can fix that in a hurry. Go with a medium mesh and be ready to clean a mess of fish.

4. Shrimp

shrimp in a bucket

Image credits: Nicole Klesy via Pixabay

Cast nets are more or less the default choice for collecting shrimp. Industrial-sized operations only increase the size of the net to catch the shrimp you see in the grocery store. Obviously, you’ll want to go with a very small mesh on these tiny fellas. Other than that, it’s pretty simple to get buckets full and boil them up.

5. Mullet

This is a good species to get started with to get a feel for what it’s like to drag in slightly bigger fish. Mullet are quite yummy and tend to school together, so one lucky cast can bring in about four or five on occasion. Florida is your best bet, but you might hit some just about anywhere on the eastern seaboard.

6. Bluegill

Chasing bluegill with a cast net can be an extremely fulfilling exercise. This is especially true if these pond fish are snubbing the baits of your competitors. One lucky throw with a cast net can claim as many bluegills as a pole angler can hope to procure in a full day out. Just don’t rub it in too much.

7. Salmon

a bear with a salmon

Image credits: Наталья Коллегова via Pixabay

Any species of fish that migrates in large numbers is ideally suited for cast netting. The rub is that you have to carefully read the local regulations before tossing your net in the river. If it is legal, you may have found a sport you literally can’t miss at. Just watch out for the bears.

8. Walleye

These predatory fish lend themselves to netting when their numbers increase to the point that they’re becoming small in size and are grouped together for protection from bigger fish. Pulling a mess of them out of an overpopulated lake can make for a heck of a fish fry. Just be careful, they’re toothy.

9. Ling

Hand out some lights on the shore and cast net in the dark for these nocturnal fish. Lighting up the bank draws them in, and all that remains is for you to collect them. There’s something oddly fun about splashing around in the dark for these snake-like fish, and they taste just like lobster dunked in a little butter.

10. Carp

Carp might not be the tastiest fish on earth, but state fish and game agencies the world over will let you net them to your heart’s content. Heck, you might even talk some departments into paying you to do it. Carp have a tendency to overpopulate and drive out other species, so net as many as you can and enjoy the practice.

A Final Thought

Regardless of where you choose to do your cast net fishing, it is imperative that you check the local fishing regulations to make certain cast net fishing is legal. Furthermore, be careful about which species you can legally collect. You don’t need a fishing pole in your hand to get ticketed for illegal fishing. Oh, and just because you’re cast netting, a valid fishing license is still required.