Cast net throwing technique

Description of cast nets used in Thailand

Cast nets in Thailand are available in different radii models – I prefer such with a radius of 3,5 meters. 3,5 meters from the center of the net to the outer axial rim chain, which is acting as a sinker.

Before being able to use the net, pockets on the outer rim have to be created. The sinker chain will be knotted at a distance of very 0,5 meters about 0,5 m into the net. Which creates pockets at the rim that are about 25 cm deep.

How to set-up a large cast net for throwing

It is not easy to describe the complex technique of preparing such a large net for casting. But the consecutive steps are as follows:

  • Left hand holds between thumb and index finger the net about 10 cm below the center.
  • The same hand stretches out to the left as much as possible and right hand at the same time holds the net again between thumb and index finger and stretches out as much as possible to the right side.
  • Right hand hands over the tightly compressed net to the left hand in the middle of the body.
  • Both, left thumb and index finger take additionally to the initially held net also the newly handed over net und hold both net parts tightly together.
  • Left hand with both net parts will be stretched out again as much as possible to the left and be held high in the air. Remaining net with sinker line is tangling now freely in the air.
  • Slight shakes with the left and right hand straighten up the free-falling net parts, so that there are no whirls in the net and the netting falls straight and parallel.
  • With the left hand still held high, the fingers of the right hand will be placed on to the net directly in front of the body.
  • Holding with thumb and index finger of the right-hand the netting about 0,5 m above the sinker line. The other fingers are creeping along the net in a tingling motion and collect about one third of the net circumference.
  • After finishing, this 1/3 of netting will be placed over the left shoulder and held in place on the should by the net itself. This is a bit of an unusual motion, but essential for a perfect cast.
  • Now the remaining 2/3 of netting are split into half by the right hand, which takes about 1/3 of netting by stretching the hand to the right.
  • The net is now split lengthwise in three parts: two parts in the left hand and one in other areas of the body. And split in its circumference also in three parts: one part is hanging over the shoulder, one is located in the right hand and one part is hanging down in front of the fisherman. That’s now the position of the net before casting.

Throwing technique of a large cast net

Casting itself is relatively easy. The fisherman walks slowly along the water edge in order to find potential prey. His net is draped and folded correctly over his body. Movements should be slow in order to spot glimpses of silvery fish flanks or bubbles created by feeding fish. And water depth, general location, fish concentration spots, distance a.s.o. have to be considered.

When decided to cast, this is done by a 90 degree turn of the upper body. This turn will be to the left side for right-handed people. During the throw, the lower body remaining steady. And by a fluid movement with the whole body from the left to the center, the net will be cast. Again, this is the most important part of casting. A fluid 90-degree movement from left to center line and releasing the net on both hands at the same time. The more fluid the movement, the rounder the flying cast net will be.

At the end of the flight, the net should be fully developed and completely round. There should be no kinks at the circumference. The closer part of the net will be hitting the water before the further part. But this does not really influence the catch rate. After hitting water, the net sinks fast to the bottom. And the sinker line will sink first, which keeps the pouches at the circumference open. Fleeing fish will try to swim out of the area above the sinker line and will get caught in the pouches.

How to secure fish in the cast net

There are basically two techniques for getting caught fish out of the net.

Technique for smaller casting nets (diameters up to about 3 m) using a hand line

After casting, the hand line should be slightly shaken repeatedly. By this action, fish are moving from inside the net to the outside and are getting caught in the circumference-pouches. Thereafter the net will be pulled in slowly and continuously. It always has to be tried to keep the sinker line at the bottom of the water body. When the net is close to the fisherman, the net will be lifted up in one fluid and fast movement. Which avoids that fish are getting lost during this process.

Technique for bigger casting nets (diameters above 3 m) without hand line

That’s the master class of cast net fishing. As there is no hand line, the net has to be sensed with the feet on the bottom of the water body. When finding it, the feet will feel vibrations of caught fish. And the fisherman then has to wade or swim to this place and press with his/her feet the sinker line deeper into the mud. This way, caught fish can’t escape.

Thereafter he has to dive down to the net. Reaching with his hands under the net and holding the fish securely tight. Flat bodied fish (e.g. Oreochromis niloticus) are held with thumb and index finger between gill covers and pectoral fins. For round bodied fish (e.g. Channa striata) a pectoral fin is held between index and middle finger. And the thumb is gripping around the gill cover on to the opposite side.

Treatment of casting nets after use

After harvesting fish from the cast net, the net has to be cleaned from debris. It also has to be uncurled where necessary and hung up in a shady place for drying. If there are holes in the netting, these have to be repaired immediately. As caught fish will find these holes and wiggle out for sure.

Lessons learned about the use of casting nets in Thailand

  • Try to get a mentor from whom to learn or improve cast net fishing. It’s too complicated to learn it from descriptions alone.
  • Practice makes perfect. A swimming pool is a fisherman’s best friend for practice.