Fishing with Dan: Cast netting for fun and profit | Columns

As you may already know, I have always been a proponent of the cast net, an angling tool with endless possibilities.

You can do so much with one that boggles the mind. I enjoy watching the long running reality show “Survivor” that airs on CBS. On that program they maroon a group of strangers on some remote island. For the contestants food is always a problem. I have seen them eat rats, snakes and all sorts of insects.

Their island is always bordered by a saltwater bay, but seldom will see someone on the island who knows how to harvest any of the sea’s bounty. At some point during the show, a group will usually win a cast net in a competition. To me it is excruciating to watch starving people sitting on the edge of a sea food bonanza, but with no clue as to how to use the net. If someone there could use that cast net, they could provide food for the group and be a hero. Only once did I see that happen.
Some years back ex-football coach Jimmy Johnson was a contestant. Jimmy is an avid fisherman and lives in the Florida Keys. Sure enough, his group won a small cast net and he went right to work catching lots of fresh fish to eat. Eventually the knuckleheads voted him off the island, thinking he was already too rich and famous and might win the money because of it. When he left, so did their food. No one had bothered to take lessons from him on throwing a net.

Folks, if you live near the water (any water) and have a cast net, you will never starve. Over the decades I have used a net to score food for the family and live bait to use. At times I have dropped my net on some surprising catches. I once threw my net over seven keeper sheepshead and another time three big snook came in from one toss. (Their sharp gills caused me to have to do lots of repairs to that net.)

Of course, mullet and shrimp are the mainstays. Many times I have cast netted so many big mullet, I could barely lift the net from the water. Fried fish dinner and smoked mullet was the tasty result.
Once in the 1980s, I netted 160 pounds of shrimp from the sea wall under the east end of the Granada Bridge in Ormond Beach. Now granted those things don’t happen often, but they do happen. Some years back I met a fellow who cast netted in the surf for flounder. He caught so many, he was able to sell them.

One of the more pleasant sidelights of netting came when our children were young. While catching bait, I netted a couple interesting little tropical fish and put them in a small 10-gallon aquarium. The kids loved them and I started adding things whenever I could. I caught tiny sting rays, mantis shrimp, sharks, spade fish, sergeant majors and all sorts of shell fish and crabs. The tank grew to 100 gallons and became a neighborhood attraction.

When you toss a net into salt water, you just never know what will come up. Of course, as a fisherman, the free bait was a biggy for me.

If you want to get started, buy a small four-foot net and check the internet for instructional videos. Anyone can do it and ladies are exceptional throwers. The most famous netter in Volusia County is Capt. Lee Noga of Oak Hill. Check her out on her website. Cast netting is productive, good exercise and will put you in one with nature. Can’t beat it.

Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.