How Fishing Nets Work: Primitive Technology

September 18, 2020

How Fishing Nets Work: Primitive Technology

Fishing nets are among the most popular forms of fishing and one of the oldest hunting techniques known to man. While there’s a wide variety of types of fishing nets, a lot of people think that fishing nets are all one thing. But how do fishing nets work?

The quick answer is that fishing nets work by trapping fish in a limited volume of water that can then be pulled out by a fisherman or boat. The net starts out covering a large volume of water that fish swim into, then the net is quickly tightened and retrieved trapping the fish inside. The fish don’t realize they have swum into a net until it is too late. 

If you want to know more about how fishing nets work, this article is a great place to start. Today, we’ll show you how fishing nets work as well as their different categories and types. So without further ado, let’s dive in!

What Exactly is a Fishing Net?

As you might’ve expected, a fishing net is exactly what it sounds like. It’s simply a woven net that’s usually used for catching fish of a wide variety of sizes.

These fishing nets can be made out of virtually any material that can be made into thin but malleable material, so you can easily manipulate it.

Regardless of the material, the net is usually made into tight knots or a network of small threads with small holes to create a large fabric that’s shaped like a mesh.

For that reason, you can find fishing nets made of a huge number of materials, ranging from primitive elements and organic materials. Grass, wool, cotton, flax, and silk all the way to modern polyamide threads like nylon are used for fishing nets.

Fishing nets are among the most primitive and oldest tools that man ever used. In fact, there are some claims that people from as old as the stone age have been using forms of fishing nets to catch fish.

The oldest fishing net to be found to date is “the net of Antrea”, which is made of willow branches and is believed to be from as old as 8540 B.C.

In fact, there are even sinkers from fishing nets that were found in Korea that dates back to 27,000 B.C.

Since fishing nets are so old and prehistoric, they’re found all over the globe in a wide variety of types and styles. But more on that later.

The Main Concept Behind Fishing Nets and How They Work

Asian fishermen throwing fishing net during twilight on wooden boat at the lake

Now that you know what a fishing net is and how it’s made, it’s time to understand the main concept behind fishing nets in general.

Keep in mind that each type of fishing net has a slightly different mechanism of action than the others.

However, they all share the same basic idea and work under two huge categories in which fishing nets of all types belong to.

Before differentiating between the two categories of the fishing net, let’s talk about the basic concept of how fishing nets work.

To put it in the simplest way possible, all fishing nets work depending on their mesh-like structure.

After all, they’re nothing more than a set of threads woven together to form a network with specific hole sizes.

This mesh is large enough to let the water and super tiny marine creatures pour out or pass through, but it’s small enough to prevent fish from escaping the trap.

This way, as fish are collected inside, you’re able to pull it up and let the water drain. The fish and other large creatures are the only things left inside.

Categories of Fishing nets

While there are various types of fishing nets, they all belong to two main categories of concepts, which depends on how you’re going to use them. These concepts are known as “passive and “active” fishing nets.

In this section, we’ll differentiate between the two, so you can have a better understanding of the different ways of using fishing nets.

Passive Fishing Nets

As the name suggests, the passive fishing nets are designed to allow people to capture fish without necessarily having to manually handle them.

Instead, these passive nets take advantage of the water current as well as the behaviors and motion of the fish.

They’re sometimes called fish traps because, just like a normal trap, all you have to do is strategically place them somewhere and wait for fish to get trapped.

Passive fishing nets are great at catching a large number of fish without effort. However, they’re not good at distinguishing better catches from undesired ones. They also pose some environmental issues that we’ll discuss later.

Active Fishing Nets

Scoop net with the fresh Pacific herring

The opposite of the passive ones is those traps that you need to manually handle. Active fishing nets are all about the fishermen handling.

These fishing needs to be thrown in a specific style and certain angles as well as being moved and directed to chase fish and trap them inside.

As the desired catch is collected inside the fishing net, it’s scooped out of the water to claim your catch. These are the ones you use on boats or while inshore kayak fishing.

As you can notice, with such a category of nets, you’re able to pinpoint the type of fish or marine creatures you want to catch.

This is better for the environment and allows for better management of the ecosystem of the body of water you’re fishing in.

However, they’re still a bit less hands-free and require you to stay put and ready at all times, more or less like fishing with a fishing rod.

Types of Fishing Nets

There are tens of types of fishing nets out there. In fact, most of them are using the exact same concept but they’re named differently.

To make things easier for you, here’s a quick list of the types of fishnets that most subtypes are grouped under.

Hand Nets and Dip Nets

Hand nets and dip nets are those nets with a single hoop that are mainly used by scooping. They can also be attached to poles, which are called “landing nets”

Gill Nets

Gills nets are the type of nets that take advantage of the nature of fish. They’re huge nets that allow the fish to enter the net but then get their gills stuck, so they can’t escape the net.

Cast Nets

These are small or medium round nets that are thrown into the water to collect the bottom fish.

Depending on the type of fishing net used, some of them are tied to a bottom rope with leads or have their top made with floating objects.

Drift Nets

This type of net is the one used when taking the current of water in considerations. In this type, the net moves with the currents and trap fish along the way.

Fyke Nets

These ones are long tube-like nets that are held open using hoops and linked together using long chains. They’re mostly used in rivers to catch fish like eels.

Bottom and Midwater Trawls

A large fishing net, which is usually conical in shape. Fishermen usually pull trawls between two boats to drag the net across the water and collect fish that come in the way.

The difference between the bottom and midwater ones depends on the depth at which the net is dragged.

Trammel Nets

Trammel nets are used while fishing different sized fish. This is because they’re triple-layered nets with the middle one having the smallest mesh. This way it can separate fish effectively.

Environmental Issues Due to the Misuse of Fishing Nets

Ghost net

As previously mentioned, certain types of fishing nets can cause some environmental issues, especially if they’re mishandled. Let’s have a quick look at those issues.

Bottom Trawling

Bottom trawling is the act of laying the fishing nets at the bottom of the seabed, which causes damage to the slowly growing communities of coral reefs.

Ghost Nets (Abandoned Nets)

These are fishing nets that are either lost or abandoned in the ocean by fishermen, especially during storms.

These nets are invisible in dim lights and they can easily entangle and kill a lot of creatures, such as dolphins, turtles, crocodiles, sharks, and even penguins.

Tiny Mesh Sizes

Fishnets that are woven in tiny mesh sizes can catch a lot of unwanted baby fish and other marine creatures that are deemed “unmarketable”.

However, these tiny creatures are extremely critical for the balance of the ecosystem they’re in. For that reason, fishnet brands now make larger mesh sizes, which significantly reduces the problem. The larger mesh allows the smaller creatures to swim freely through the net and not be harmed.

How Much is a Fishing Net?

The answer to this question depends mainly on the type of fishing net in question, as well as the size and quality of materials used.

For example, the popular landing fishing net lies anywhere between $20 to $50 depending on the type of and quality of the net.

On the other hand, cast nets and other types of free nets can set you back a range of $35 to $90 with some special brands costing up to hundreds of dollars. These nets are perfect for catching common baitfish such as mullet or shad. If you want to learn how to hook mullet, check out the above how-to article.

Wrap Up

Fishing nets are one of the oldest methods to catch fish. They’re made of a wide variety of fabrics woven and knotted together into a mesh that traps fish in.

Depending on the type and category of the fishnet, its way of working varies slightly. If you’re into using a fishing net for catching fish, we suggest that you start with a beginner-friendly type, such as the landing fishnets.

You can try the PLUSINNO Floating Fishing Net, which is a foldable, durable, and lightweight option that you can use to hunt a large selection of fish, such as trout, salmon, and bass! You should also check out our article on the best live baits to use for surf fishing if you’re thinking about catching bait.

Happy Hunting!

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