I'm trying to understand the process of fishing with a net. Two people with a small boat and a net, fishing in the sea within sight of shore. (My actual interest in this is that I am writing about fictional characters doing it, and I care about getting the details right, but I'm trying to phrase the question so that answers will also be useful to people doing it for real.)

Most of what I can find on personal-scale (as opposed to commercial-scale) fishing – as well as my own extremely limited experience – involves rods. But as I understand it, nets are supposed to be more effective (as measured by quantity of fish you can catch per hour)?

I understand in general terms how it works with a rod; if there are fish nearby, the bait lures them in. But there doesn't seem to be any equivalent of that with a net. Does that mean you have to correctly guess where the fish are? How do you do that? Or how do you adjust if your first guess doesn't turn up anything?

I see YouTube videos on cast-net fishing, but this seems to be only for tiny fish suitable for baiting hooks for use with rods. I'm not seeing any indication that anyone expects to use it for directly catching edible fish. I also see videos on direct net fishing in ponds, but no indication of anyone doing it on a personal scale in the sea. Is there a technical reason for this, or is it just that sport fishing is considered more entertaining with a rod, and commercial fishing at sea nowadays would always involve big trawlers?

Given two people with a small boat and a net, fishing offshore, what kind of net would you want to use, and how would you actually find the fish so you know where to put the net? Or is there a different way of approaching the problem that I am missing?

  • 2
    Fishing for daily food using a net is done throughout South East Asia, India, Bangladesh, etc. I also think you have your ideas wrong - go to any Chinese market and look at the dried fish, much of it is small < 5cm, and eaten bones and all, used for flavouring other dishes, snacking, making soups. Fish sauce is traditionally made using small fish too.
    – bob1
    Jun 23, 2021 at 20:31

1 Answer 1


My dad used to take us fishing with a net in the Caribbean. As I recall, the locals's traditional net is just like a wider, deeper tennis court net. You have floats on top and weights on the bottom. In this case, it was probably around 15-25 m wide, and 2-3 m deep.

(Sorry, my dimensions are sketchy, I was only about 5-8 yrs old at the time).

There are anchors on either end to keep it from drifting off. I believe they were like probably good for 3-5 m deep water, this is not a net you cast in deep open water. Nor it is something you cast in coral reefs where they'd get tangled up. Mesh is double layered, about 15-20 cm on a side - might be one side is bigger than other, not sure. Fish gets in but usually doesn't make it all the way true and gets tangled up.

You stretch it out in a line and leave it for some hours, about 1/2 day IIRC. Say overnight. Guessing 15-30 min to put out, 15-30 to pull in. You come and see what the net caught. You just pull it in hand over hand. Over time you learn which parts of the shoreline work better than others.

No real bait needed. Turtles and sharks will both drown from getting caught, other fish will mostly still be alive as you pull the net in. Never got a dolphin, thank God.

Nope, would not do it myself nowadays, but it was pretty traditional fishing back then. My parents lost the habit when they got ciguatera poisoning. I was luckily a very finicky eater - as usual - that day and did not touch my mom's weird fish dish.

Google up traditional Caribbean fishing nets and you should see more details.

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