fish 2021

Cast-net fishing

What you need to know

Posted 4/7/21

For many in the fishing community, pictures and videos of landing a fish are the bread and butter of modern fish bragging. From shows like “Wicked Tuna” to hundreds of Instagram …

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fish 2021

Cast-net fishing

What you need to know


For many in the fishing community, pictures and videos of landing a fish are the bread and butter of modern fish bragging. From shows like “Wicked Tuna” to hundreds of Instagram celebrities sporting their catch, many followers have taken to traveling to destinations highlighted on these platforms and recording their own successes via social media. As a result of this, a wave of fishing techniques and equipment has begun to rise in popularity through the influence of what is seen throughout the old interwebs. One activity that has quickly risen in popularity is cast-net fishing.

Cast netting is the practice of throwing a circular net with weights around its edges into an area of water that is rich with fish. The goal is to throw the net in such a way that it spreads out completely without folding over on itself and drops down around the fish below. There is a series of drawstrings connected through a center ring that extends to the outer rim, which can be pulled once the weights have fallen to the bottom. This closes the net below the area that has been covered, allowing the fisherman to pull up the net as a bundle with the fish trapped inside.

This method of fishing is very fast-paced and can be extremely efficient for those with little time to devote to the sport. However, in our part of the country at least, it comes with some fairly strict rules that the fisherman must be aware of prior to running out and tossing the net anywhere they please.

The interesting thing about where we live on the Delaware River is that there is a reciprocation of license and permits from both sides. This means that if you have a New York license, you can fish on the Pennsylvania side and vice versa. But this is only for the Delaware River and does not apply when you enter the state and fish any other body of water. This is important to know because there are different regulations for cast-net fishing in each state. In Pennsylvania, you must first have a Pennsylvania fishing license before applying for the cast-net permit. You can obtain the permit from and mail it in with the application fee, or you can order it through the website. The cost is about $11 and there are only certain types of fish that can be targeted using this method.

To reference the disclaimer on the permit application itself, “The use of a cast net or throw net in any other commonwealth waters is a violation of the Fish and Boat Code and is punishable by a fine and may result in the loss of fishing privileges. Cast nets or throw nets shall not exceed 10 feet in radius or 20 feet in diameter and possess a mesh size of at least 3/8 inch. The holder of the cast net or throw net permit may take, catch, kill or possess a daily creel limit of 100 gizzard shad and alewife (combined species). The holder of the permit shall carry the permit on his/her person while using the net or while possessing more than 50 gizzard shad or alewife (combined species).”

Gizzard shad are the primary species for which the permits were initially developed. Alewives, or combined species, include members of the herring family, which are plentiful in a number of lakes in this region. The final stipulations of cast-net fishing in Pennsylvania are the strictest. There are only a few bodies of water that can legally be cast netted and those are described in the chart on this page.

Lake Wallenpaupack is the only local body of water in our region that can be netted. In addition, any species caught there can only be used as bait for on that lake and cannot be resold or taken to another body of water. You will notice that under the Pennsylvania guidelines, there is no option to use the cast net on the Delaware River.

In New York, regulations are different. Obviously, since New York has contact with the ocean, there is a saltwater category of fishing regulations, which are separate from freshwater ones. For the purposes of this article, I’ll only be focusing on the freshwater regulations specifically as they pertain to our Upper Delaware River region. The regulations are, again, very strict, as they are in Pennsylvania. For example, there is only one location in New York where freshwater fish can be legally caught using a cast net, and that is anywhere below the Troy Dam on the Hudson River. You can find this information on page 73 and 82 of the New York Freshwater Fishing Guide:

Cast-net fishing is not currently permitted from either state in the Delaware River itself, and the limitations for the size and parameters of the net are the same in both states: no larger than a 10-foot radius or 20-foot diameter of the net, with 3/8-inch holes. Additionally, both states require that it is only used for shad and alewife (herring).

As you watch the videos on social media of fishermen casting out these vast nets in a style not unlike a discus thrower, just understand that the ability to practice this style of fishing is not as legally approachable in our area as popular media may suggest. However, it is not an impossible method of fishing to enjoy. In other parts of both states, it is a common practice. If you still have the desire to try it out for yourself, a common cast net can be purchased from many box stores such as BassPro, Walmart, Field & Stream and, of course, online for a very low, one-time cost. Just remember to double-check before taking it out; it isn’t worth losing your fishing license over.

cast-net fishing


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