Well, I guess that depends on what you're going to use it for, bait species, and how much you're willing to dish out.
Those people who use them for the big mullet, typically use the huge cast nets, where you're talking like 7-9' radius...thats a damn huge net, and not east at all to throw.
Of course I've only got limited use out of mine, since I dont have very many spots up here. I mainly use it around the wood pylings at Mashes Sands, and I find that my 3 1/2' radius works fine. Occasionally I'll get a few pilchards or finger mullet stuck in the net, but usually a good shake gets them out. It's 3/8" mesh, works good for the small stuff, I'd say up to like 8". I'd assume thats what you want yours for, so I'd definitely stick with meshing at least as small as 3/8". 1/4" would work better, but they're not easy to find, and on Basspro.com they're awfully expensive. As far as radius size, I think you'd be safe with anything up to 5' or so, not much of a differece in the ability to throw than something smaller like 3 1/2'.
Then of course for the final part of this, nylon or mono. I've always used mono, nylon is more expensive and I've never really bothered to compare the two. I want to say I payed roughly around $20 for mine, so I wouldn't pay more than $35 or so for something around 5'.
I'd honestly spend the extra few dollars and buy the 5' radius one, its definitely worth it. There's times when I wish my net was bigger just simply because of the baitfish scrambling as soon as they see the shadow of the net. Also, some people reccomend soaking the net before you first use it in a bucket with warm water and a bit of fabric softener, and of course if you're using it in salt water you've gotta wash it out and hang it up after you use it.
Cast nets aren't tough, once you get the hang of them. Joe's advice is good. Stick with a small one to start...a 5 ft. net isn't too hard to handle and it'll cover some serious ground.
Two bits of advice for you as you start.
First, buy a good pair of sunglasses with POLARIZED lenses. Don't skimp on your shades...once you get used to them, you'll never fish without them. With polarized lenses, if you're standing above the bait, on a pier or on the bow of a boat, you can see through the glare on the surface of the water. That extra two feet you can see down into the water makes all the difference in the world when you're trying to find mullet.
Second, practice somewhere over a sandy bottom until you can get the net to spread open almost everytime. You'll perfect your technique before you really need the bait. The worst thing about using a cast net is snags...rocks, roots, and oysters will snag and shred the net that you just paid $30 for. My wife got really good at pulling mine off the rocks at Jetty Park before I got the hang of it...gotta love that woman! Anyway, by practicing in the surf or over clean bottom in the river, you'll be ready when you need bait, and when you see all those mullet coming at you, you won't fold it over and spread out the whole school!
Let me just chirp in here with something else regarding practicing it. Forget the sandy bottom, practice on grass dude. Repeatedly throwing a cast net out and hauling it up onto a pier or out of the water 50 times sucks major ass, and it can rub your hands raw from the pulling. When I'm in CT over the summer there's a park down the road with a pond full of shiners, and I finally got my dad to practice with it so he can use shiners when I'm not there. I had him practice in the front yard for a while just till he got a decent hang out it.
As far as the shades go, I got a cheapo pair of glasses from Wally-World and while they're not polorized, they do help. Mashes Sands doesn't really require you to have them, especially since bait is always around the pylings, or at the mouth of that drainage creek or whatever the hell it is, plus mullet in shallow water cause clutter on the surface.
Do be prepared to practice and then have your net screw up and ruin a great chance to get a ton of bait. Happens to me all the time, it happens to everyone...cant always throw it perfect everytime; but it sure does beat buying bait everytime you wanna go fishing.
There ya go, that link works. I cant say one way or another as far as brand type goes, but if the one I got at Wally-World worked fine, I'm sure that would too. I'd say go with the 5', its only $32.
I hear ya about Cabelas, though I've always been a BassProShops guy. Way back when they first opened the store up in Atlanta a family vacation gave me the luxury of being able to check it out, and it was the best thing in the world when they opened one up in Orlando which was tops 35mins away from my house. I've already told my mom when I come home on Friday the 12th, I'll be home at 2:30, off to BassPro, home, sleep, wake up early Saturday morning, deep sea fishing, off to CT Sunday morning at the crack of dawn. Its amazing how much time you can spend in places like those, last time I went there over Spring Break I literally spent a good 3 hours in there....there's just so much stuff.
No, I don't go to FSU, and Blanken is short for Blankenship, so I'm probably not related to your buddy.
Practicing in the front yard will work, too like Joe said, but it's just not as fun! When you get it, you'll want to throw it at something...my point was to throw it when you're not depending on the bait and to watch out for snags...hence the sandy bottom. It's kind of fun to see what kind of stuff you drag in even if you are just practicing.
And I wouldn't worry too much about rubbing your hands raw from throwing too many times...My back and shoulder give out after about a dozen casts of my 4 1/2 foot net. It gets heavy quick, especially if you're waiting on a school to swim by. And if you can throw it fifty times without a break, I'll come catch your bait for you!
You whimp! I know your net is a foot bigger than mine, but a few weeks ago I was at Mashes Sands running around in knee deep water flinging my net all around for mullet, it was quite amusing. I'd say I threw the thing a good 25 times.
If I threw a cast net 25 times, I'd have to take a nap...if that makes me a whimp, I guess I can wear that badge.
I got lucky today with my net chuckin'...found ONE (the only one apparently) school of mullet along the rocks at Jetty Park, threw once, and filled a 5 gallon bucket 1/3 of the way. There must've been 75 mullet in there. Chucked back all but about two dozen little ones and bounced them on the bottom looking for flounder. Now that's my favorite way to cast net. I'm not trying to throw any more than I have to.
By the way, it didn't do me much good to fill my quota on mullet today...they were the only fish I caught in three hours before the wind blew me out of park.
I like Jetty Park, had some good fun there over Spring Break. Got into a school of big jacks one day with a jig and it was insane, get a hit....lose it, another hit, wham wham wham. I dont even bringing my cast net, I've never seen any bait there....period. Used a sabiki rig there and didn't come up with anything either, i was pretty disappointed. Tried the shrimp deal off the bottom for flouder and no luck, just a big ass black drum and some jacks. Spanish the next day with a sheepshead coming off a red glitter grub..who knew.
I work at Cape Canaveral AFS, so Jetty Park is just a jump away, and it's a good way to relax for an hour or so before dark. The bait is kind of random there. There are okay days and awful days. The mullet were running through about a month ago...you could have filled your boat if you wanted to. Other than that, you can usually catch some greenies about any time you want, but the mullet seem to like the rocks on the other side of the Port. If you've got a boat, you can usually catch mullet along the sandbar right before you get to Cruise Ship basin on the North side.
There are also always a bunch of pinfish around the pilings where the gambling boats dock on the south side, but catching them on tiny hooks and shrimp is a pain. Actually, I've caught the biggest sailor's choice I've ever seen right along there...some of them are a foot long...too big for bait, but good for the plate.
The best bait we ever got there was a bunch of pogies...I have no idea what they were doing in the port, but they were there. My buddy and I were in his boat and he landed a 55lb cobia that he hooked in front of the submarine turn basin. Followed him in the boat 3 miles offshore before he landed it on 14lb test.
Jetty is fun, but it's no Sebastian...but it is close.
I wish I had a boat just to cruise around inside the port. One of the day I was down there I saw a guy in a boat doing what apparered to be jigging around the buoy straight out from the pier....had an enormous pole with a rod belt....and whatever the hell he caught, was damn big.
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