How Do Fishing Nets Work?

If you want to catch more fish, you’ll need to get familiar with using a fishing net. Fishing nets come in all shapes and sizes and are designed to capture everything from tiny minnows to huge monster fish.

But how do fishing nets work? For a fishing net to work, it has to be thrown by hand in the water so that it spreads out in the air before it hits the water. The fish are caught as the net is dragged back. The way a fish net is used depends on a model, but the general approach is the same. 

Keep reading to learn about what fishing nets are, how they work, and what they are used for.

What Is a Fishing Net?

As its name suggests, a fishing net is a net used for fishing. Fishing nets can be made from different materials, including nylon, silk, and wool. Early cast nets were made from woven grasses, flaxes, and other fibrous plant material.

Most fishing nets look like meshes and are made by knotting a thin thread. Simple yet effective, fishing nets are particularly successful for catching small bait or prey fish. 

This type of fishing gear has been in use for thousands of years. Archeological evidence suggests that our ancestors used fishing nets during the stone age. 

One of the oldest known fishing nets, the net of Antrea, was found with other fishing equipment in Finland in 1914. This net was made from willow and is dated back to 8300 BC. The net of Antrea was for a long time the oldest dated net find in Europe. 

History shows the significant role the fishing nets played in the lives of our ancestors and ancient civilizations. 

How Do the Fishing Nets Work?

There are a few different types of fishing nets. Although the general method is the same, the exact way a fishing network is depends on the specific type.

To use a fishing net, an angler must cast the net or throw it into the water. The net must be thrown in such a way that it spreads out while flying through the air before it hits the water and sinks. 

As the fishermen drag the cast net through the water, fish become entrapped inside. The net is then hauled from the water, and the collected fish is removed. 

This fishing technique is called net casting or net throwing. Net fishing is just one of several methods to catch fish and other aquatic animals, such as mollusks and edible marine invertebrates. 

Types of Fishing Nets

Types of Fishing Nets

There are several types of fishing nets. Modern fishing nets come in different sizes, with an average radius of 4 to 12 feet. 

Most nets for recreational fishing feature a four-foot hoop. Fishing nets have weights around the edge at around 1 pound per foot. 

Listed below are several different kinds of fishing nets: 

Hand Nets

Hand nets are also called dip or scoop nets. Held by a hoop, these nets can be attached to a short or long pole that a fisherman drags through the water to catch fish.

Since antiquity, hand nets have been used to catch fish near the water’s surface. When an angler uses a hand net to help land a fish, such a net is called a landing net. 

Bottom Trawl Nets

A trawl is a large, conically-shaped net designed to be dragged along the sea bottom. This type of fishing net is pulled through the water by one or more boats, called draggers or trawlers. The act of pulling the trawl net through the water is called trawling or dragging.

Bottom trawling damages the sea floor and results in a lot of bycatch. Because of that, bottom trawling is banned across thousands of miles of water worldwide. 

Fixed Gillnet

Fixed gillnets consist of a netting sheet, which is fixed on stakes. The stakes are driven in the bottom, within the inter-tidal area along the coast. 

The fish swimming in the area ends up ensnared in the net. The fisherman visits the gillnets during the low tides and only collects the captured fish, leaving the nets in the same place for several days. 

Seine Net

Seine nets are large fishing nets that can be used in many different ways. In purse seine fishing, the weights are attached along the net’s bottom edge. This way, the net hangs vertically in the water and floats along the top. 

Beach seine is a commonly used fishing technique in which the seine net is controlled from the shore. 

Cast Nets

Also called throw nets, cast nets are small, round nets thrown by an angler. These nets have weights around the edges. Cast nets vary in size up to 4 meters in diameter. 

The net is thrown in the air by hand and should spread out before it sinks. The fisherman then pulls the net back in, hauling the caught fish. 

When to Use Fishing Nets?

Whether you are a Wade fisherman or prefer to catch fish from a boat or a bank, a fishing net can come in handy. If you’re fishing with a light line, the ability to net a fish when you get close to it can be a big advantage to landing a fish. 

Many wade fishermen carry their nets on the back and reach behind and grab the net whenever necessary. Boat fishermen use nets to avoid hoisting the fish on the boat, while bank fishermen use nets to net a fish instead of hauling it onto dry land. 


Fishing nets are an important piece of fishing equipment. Using a fishing net allows anglers to cover a larger area of water without too much effort. Fishing nets also help fishermen easily haul a large amount of fish in a single sweep.

There are several types of fishing nets. For a productive fishing trip, make sure you’re using the net that best suits your needs. 

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