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Captain's corner


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 2000

Choosing the right cast net will save you a lot of frustration and effort.

There are many different net lengths, weights and mesh sizes. For years, most local anglers and cast-net throwers preached about the need to have expensive, handmade nets. Production nets were made differently and were inclined to stay closed when thrown. Handmade nets were designed to lay flat and spring open when thrown. Handmade nets are usually heavy and most of the guides I know claim the heavier the net the better -- if you could throw it. The result was a lot of sore backs and not that much better bait production. If the water is deep, you need a heavier net but, in less than 7 feet of water, heavy nets are more a hinderance than a benefit.

I have at least eight cast nets of all weights and sizes. Recently I bought a cheap 10-foot, quarter-inch mesh net with a paltry 10 pounds of weight to catch glass minnows and small whitebait for chum. The more I used it the more I liked it, and I experimented with it for everyday whitebait on the flats. It worked great. The best part is my back did not hurt on those mornings when the bait was tough. You can throw a light net all morning and not ache. Another highlight: The lighter weight makes it easier to spread open and drags less grass and mud into the boat. Nowadays it is all I use. I still carry some of the other nets for special situations, but when catching bait on the flats, heavy, handmade nets are unnecessary. If it rips in a few months, I'll throw it away and buy a new one.

- Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call (813) 831-0355.

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