How to catch shad with a cast net

how to catch shad with a cast net

Catching shad with a cast net can be a fun and effective way to gather bait for fishing. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to catch shad with a cast net:

Materials Needed:

  1. Cast net (appropriate size for the shad and the fishing location)
  2. Bucket or cooler to hold the caught shad
  3. Polarized sunglasses (to help you see the shad in the water)
  4. Gloves (for handling the net and fish)
  5. Proper fishing attire and footwear


  1. Choose the Right Size Cast Net: Select a cast net that’s appropriate for the size of the shad and the depth of the water you’re fishing in. The size of the net’s radius should generally be based on the depth of the water. For shallower waters, you can use a smaller net (around 4-6 feet in radius), while for deeper waters, a larger net (6-10 feet in radius) is more suitable.
  2. Check Local Regulations: Make sure to check and follow any local fishing regulations, such as size and possession limits for shad. It’s important to fish responsibly and legally.
  3. Scout the Area: Look for areas where shad are known to gather. These may include near the surface, in schools, around structures like piers or bridge pilings, and in the vicinity of underwater vegetation.
  4. Timing: Early morning or late afternoon tend to be good times for shad fishing, as they are often more active during these periods.
  5. Prepare the Cast Net: Open the cast net and hold it by the horn (the center point where the ropes converge). Allow the net to hang straight down.
  6. Approach Quietly: Move carefully towards the area where you spotted the shad to avoid spooking them. Polarized sunglasses can help you see into the water and locate the shad.
  7. Throwing the Cast Net:
    • Hold the rope in one hand and the horn in the other.
    • Gather the excess net into the hand holding the rope, creating a pocket.
    • Swing the net over your shoulder with the pocket facing the water.
    • As you swing the net, release the gathered netting from your hand, allowing the net to spread out in a circular shape.
    • Let the net sink into the water. The weights on the net will help it sink, trapping the shad within.
  8. Retrieve the Net: Once the net has sunk and captured the shad, quickly pull the rope, causing the net to close and trap the shad inside.
  9. Secure the Catch: Carefully lift the net out of the water, using both hands. Hold the bottom of the net closed to prevent any shad from escaping.
  10. Transfer to Bucket or Cooler: Transfer the caught shad into a bucket or cooler filled with water. Make sure the container has enough water to keep the shad alive until you’re ready to use them as bait.
  11. Release Non-Target Species: If you catch any non-target species, such as unwanted fish or juvenile fish, release them carefully and gently back into the water.
  12. Repeat: Repeat the process in different spots until you have the desired amount of shad for your fishing needs.

Remember, practicing proper technique is important for both successful shad catching and minimizing stress on the fish. Always prioritize the safety and well-being of the fish you catch, and follow any local fishing regulations and guidelines.

How do you throw a net for shad?

Throwing a cast net effectively for shad requires proper technique to ensure the net spreads out correctly and captures the shad underwater. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to throw a net for shad:

Materials Needed:

  • Cast net (appropriate size for the shad and the fishing location)
  • Gloves (for handling the net and fish)
  • Polarized sunglasses (to help you see the shad in the water)


  1. Choose the Right Size Cast Net:
    • As mentioned earlier, select a cast net with a suitable radius for the shad and the water depth.
  2. Prepare the Cast Net:
    • Lay out the cast net on a clean, dry surface.
    • Hold the net by the horn (the center point where the ropes converge).
  3. Gather the Netting:
    • Hold the rope in one hand and the horn in the other.
    • Using the hand holding the rope, gather the excess netting by grabbing a handful of netting material.
    • Create a pocket or pouch by holding the gathered netting against your body, creating a cone-like shape with the net.
  4. Hold the Net Correctly:
    • Hold the gathered netting against your body with your non-throwing hand.
    • Keep the horn of the net in your throwing hand, with the net hanging down from it.
  5. Positioning and Stance:
    • Stand facing the water with your dominant shoulder towards your target area.
    • Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart for stability.
  6. Aim and Wind Up:
    • Swing the net over your dominant shoulder, keeping the pocket of gathered netting against your body.
    • As you swing, let the net fan out and allow the weights along the edges to extend fully.
  7. Release and Throw:
    • As you reach the apex of the swing, release the gathered netting with your non-throwing hand, allowing it to spread out in a circular shape.
    • Simultaneously, throw the net forward and towards the water, using a fluid motion.
    • The net should spread out and open as it descends towards the water’s surface.
  8. Let the Net Sink:
    • Allow the net to sink into the water, guided by the weights along its edges.
    • The net will form a barrier that traps the shad inside.
  9. Retrieve the Net:
    • Once the net has sunk to the desired depth, quickly pull the rope with your throwing hand.
    • This will cause the net to close and form a pouch, capturing the shad within.
  10. Secure the Catch:
  • Hold the bottom of the net closed to prevent shad from escaping.
  • Carefully lift the net out of the water, ensuring you don’t spill any captured shad.
  1. Transfer to a Container:
  • Transfer the caught shad into a bucket or cooler with water, keeping them alive until you’re ready to use them as bait.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to throwing a cast net. It may take some time to develop the right technique, but with practice, you’ll become more proficient at capturing shad effectively.

How to catch shad with a cast net: What is the best cast net for Shad?

What is the best cast net for Shad

The best cast net for shad depends on factors such as the size of the shad you’re targeting, the depth of the water you’re fishing in, and your personal preferences. Generally, shad can vary in size, so selecting an appropriate cast net size is crucial. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the best cast net for shad:

  1. Net Size: The size of the cast net is typically determined by its radius. For shad, a net with a radius of around 4 to 6 feet is commonly used. This size is suitable for capturing shad of various sizes while maintaining maneuverability, especially if you’re fishing in shallower waters.
  2. Mesh Size: The mesh size of the netting material also matters. Smaller mesh sizes, such as 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch, are ideal for shad. These mesh sizes prevent smaller shad from escaping while still allowing water to flow through.
  3. Weight: Cast nets have weights along the edges to help the net sink and spread properly underwater. The weight should be appropriate for the net’s size and the water depth you’re fishing in. Too heavy of a net may sink too quickly, while too light of a net may not spread out effectively.
  4. Material and Quality: Look for cast nets made from high-quality materials that are durable and resistant to wear and tear. Nylon and monofilament nets are commonly used and can work well for shad fishing.
  5. Ease of Use: Consider nets with features that make them easy to handle and throw. Features like hand line attachments, reinforced stitching, and sturdy hardware can contribute to a better fishing experience.
  6. Local Regulations: Some areas may have regulations on the use of cast nets, including mesh size and minimum sizes for legal catches. Make sure to adhere to these regulations when selecting a cast net.
  7. Brand and Reviews: Research reputable brands that specialize in fishing gear. Reading reviews from other anglers can provide insights into the performance and durability of different cast net options.
  8. Personal Preference: Ultimately, the best cast net for shad is one that you feel comfortable using and that suits your fishing style. Practice with different nets to find one that you can handle effectively.

Before purchasing a cast net, it’s a good idea to visit a local fishing store or consult experienced anglers in your area. They can provide you with advice tailored to your specific fishing location and the type of shad you’re targeting. Remember that practice and technique play a significant role in successful cast netting, so take the time to learn how to throw the net effectively regardless of the specific net you choose.

What is the best bait for shad?

Shad are known to feed on plankton and small aquatic organisms, so using natural baits that mimic their natural diet can be effective for attracting and catching them. Here are some popular bait options for shad fishing:

  1. Minnows: Small live minnows or shiners are excellent bait for shad. They closely resemble the natural prey of shad and can be very attractive to them.
  2. Worms: Live worms, such as nightcrawlers or redworms, can also be effective for shad. They emit scent and movement in the water, which can entice shad to bite.
  3. Fly Fishing Flies: Small, brightly colored flies that resemble insects or plankton can be used effectively for shad when fly fishing. These flies should be presented in a way that imitates the natural movement of shad’s prey.
  4. Berkeley Gulp! Alive! Bait: Artificial baits like Gulp! Alive! products offer scented and soft baits that can resemble shad’s natural food. These baits release scent into the water, attracting shad.
  5. Small Lures: Small jigs, spoons, or spinners that imitate the movement of shad’s prey can also be effective. These can be used when shad are feeding actively near the surface.
  6. Dough Baits: Some anglers have success using dough baits, such as prepared bait dough balls or homemade concoctions. These can be molded onto hooks and offer both scent and visual appeal.
  7. Prepared Baits: Commercially available shad baits specifically formulated to attract and catch shad can be found at fishing supply stores.
  8. Chumming: In some cases, anglers use a technique called chumming to attract shad. This involves dispersing small bits of bait into the water to create a feeding frenzy, which can draw shad closer to your fishing spot.

When using bait for shad, it’s essential to consider the size of the bait and the size of the shad you’re targeting. Shad can vary in size, so adjust your bait size accordingly. Additionally, fishing conditions, such as water temperature and time of day, can impact shad feeding behavior and their preference for certain baits.

Experiment with different baits and observe what’s working best on the day you’re fishing. Keep in mind that shad can be finicky, so being adaptable and willing to switch baits if needed is key to successful shad fishing.

What are the disadvantages of a cast net?

While cast nets are a popular and effective tool for catching baitfish like shad, they do come with some disadvantages and challenges. Here are some potential disadvantages of using a cast net:

  1. Skill and Technique: Properly throwing and retrieving a cast net requires practice and skill. It can take time to develop the technique needed to consistently spread the net properly and capture the desired amount of baitfish.
  2. Size Limitations: Cast nets have a limited radius, which means you can only catch baitfish within a certain area. This can be a disadvantage if the baitfish are scattered or located farther away from your casting position.
  3. Environmental Impact: Incorrect use of cast nets, such as dragging them along the bottom or catching non-target species, can have negative impacts on the aquatic environment. It’s essential to use cast nets responsibly to minimize these effects.
  4. Snagging: Cast nets can get snagged on underwater structures, vegetation, or debris. Retrieving a net from a snag can be time-consuming and may result in damage to the net or loss of baitfish.
  5. Safety Concerns: Cast nets can be heavy and have weights along their edges. If not handled properly, these weights can cause injury to the angler or others in the area. Additionally, casting a net near other anglers, swimmers, or boats can pose safety risks.
  6. Learning Curve: As with any fishing technique, there is a learning curve associated with using a cast net. Beginners may experience frustration and limited success initially as they work to master the skill of throwing and retrieving the net.
  7. Bait Handling: Handling live baitfish can be messy and challenging, especially if you’re trying to keep them alive for an extended period. Baitfish require proper care to maintain their health and vitality.
  8. Local Regulations: Some areas have regulations governing the use of cast nets, including mesh size, size limits, and restricted areas. It’s important to be aware of and adhere to these regulations to avoid legal issues.
  9. Limited Depth: Cast nets are more effective in shallower waters. If you’re fishing in deeper waters, using a cast net may not be as efficient or practical.
  10. Weather Conditions: Wind and strong currents can affect the accuracy of your cast and the spread of the net, making it more challenging to catch baitfish effectively.
  11. Invasive Species: Using a cast net in one body of water and then moving to another without properly cleaning the net can lead to the spread of invasive species.

Despite these disadvantages, many anglers find cast nets to be a valuable tool for gathering baitfish efficiently. With practice and proper technique, the challenges associated with using cast nets can be overcome, and anglers can enjoy successful shad fishing and other baitfish-catching activities.