Though mullet nets are a form of cast net, the main difference between typical cast nets -- also known as brail nets -- and mullet nets is the size of the mesh and the design used for forming the net's bag. Both types are circular nets, but the overall size varies between 4 to 8 feet for brail nets and 6 to 12 feet for mullet nets. Casting a net takes coordination and upper-body strength to achieve a full spread to the net's maximum diameter. When fully opened upon casting, the net is highly effective in trapping marine life, as the lead line -- weights around the net's circumference -- settles to the bottom. The net forms a bag to trap the catch and is hauled up by the hand line.
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Brail nets are made from monofilament fibre or white nylon. The filament, tied at specific intervals, forms a mesh. The spacing of the mesh determines the size of the catch. Brail nets usually have a one-quarter to three-quarter-inch mesh, which allows the net to catch small species like shrimp or small baitfish. The small mesh reduces the speed at which the net settles to the bottom. This slow descent enables larger, faster species like mullet and finfish to outrun the net and escape capture. A system of lines called brailers attaches the hand line to points around the net's circumference. Once the net settles to the bottom, fishermen retrieve the handline slowly to begin gathering the net into a bag. The top of the net cinches to a ring called a cringle, which slides down the brailers to form the bag. Fishermen dump the catch out of the net by lifting the net by the cringle and giving it a shake.
Mullet nets are usually made of nylon webbing. The webbing is usually a 1-inch mesh to allow the net to sink rapidly and catch the quick and agile mullet. Mullet nets use chain as the weight around the net's perimeter, which helps contribute to a rapid descent. The hand line ties to the webbing in the top of the net and there are no brailers. The bag is a shallow loop of webbing built into the net's edge during construction and is fixed in position and size. Mullet nets, when cast, settle quickly to the bottom with the chain leading the way and the net billowing out above it like a dome. When the chain hits the bottom, the fish try to swim out from under the net and swim directly into the bag. Fishermen pull the hand line slowly to lift the net off the bottom. They remove the catch by reaching through the bottom of the net.
Cast Net Technique
Hand lines have a loop spliced into the end that cinches around the wrist to prevent the net from being lost during the cast. Fishermen coil the hand line in the hand that has the line cinched to it. They ensure that the top of the net is just outside the hand on the palm. They coil the net until about 3 feet of net hang free. Reaching down with the other hand, they grab the lead line or chain line. Clamp the nylon part of the lead line -- or a section of webbing for mullet nets -- in your teeth. Drape about two-thirds of the hanging net over the offhand arm and grab this bunch of webbing in the offhand. Wind up and throw the net as if it were a large, flexible frisbee. Release everything with both hands and your teeth at once and the net will fly out and open using centrifugal force. Failure to release the net in your teeth can be painful -- and in the case of denture wearers, can lead to loss of your dentures. Allow the net to settle to the bottom. Slowly retrieve your net and -- hopefully -- your catch.
Past Cast Nets
Many ancient texts and drawings reference cast nets. Norse mythology, Greek poetry and the Bible's New Testament make mention of this fishing technique. Roman drawings dating to the 4th century B.C. depict a type of gladiator called a retiarius armed with an interpretation of a cast net and a trident. This was most likely learnt from fishermen the Romans met in their conquests and represents the earliest reference to cast nets -- if not by name, at least by design.
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