History of Cast Nets
by Mike Usina

With permission from the
Mullet Wrapper
Menorcan History
Ancient Nets
Cast nets have been around for thousands of years, a complete cast net was found in an Egyptian tomb dating to 1000

Apparently, two types of cast nets were made during Biblical times in the sea of Galilee.

1. What we now call English style nets were thhrown from boats. Larger cast nest with no brail lines to bag the net were
used in shallow water. The fisherman would dive down and remove the fish one by one or would gather the lead line in a
pouch before lifting it back to the surface.

2. Larger nets with no brail lines to bag the net were used in shallow water. The fisherman would dive down and remove
the fish one by one or would gather the lead line in a pouch before lifting it back to the surface to extract the fish.

Early nets were woven from grasses, flaxes and otherfibrous plant material before linen.

Menorcan in the 1700s
Now lets move up to our Menorcan ancestors in the 1700s. Some immigrants to St. Augustine were net fisherman who
came from the isle of Menorca. These people settled the coasts from New Smyrna to St. Augustine and were very skilled
in net making and fishing for mullet. Mullet was such a staple for life and commerce that the famous cry mullet on the
beach would stop daily business and other activities as every one would rush to the beach to harvest the passing
schools of mullet. The early Menorcans made two types of cast nets: (1) The Spanish or bag net was used for shallow
water fishing as the mullet would get trapped in the bag that was at the bottom of the net. (2) The English net was used
in deeper water; the net has a horn and swivel at the top with tucks that were attached to the lead line. After casting, the
fisherman would pull the net in the hand line that was attached to the swivel and tucks causing the net to form a bag.
This type net will sink faster and the fish are much easier to get out of the net.

Material used
Until 1939, nets were made of cotton, then DuPont came out with new synthetic material. Nylon and monofilament burst
onto the scene only to be unavailable for commercial use due to the War years. However, by the late 1940s nylon
began to replace cotton as the material of choice in net making. Early monofilament was too stiff to be used in net
making or as fishing line. Then in 1959, Dupont introduced Stren a thinner and much softer monofilament, thus the
beginning of the ned for nylon as the material of choice in net making began.

Nets of all kind were made by hand until 1951, when a Japanese company started manufacturing machine made net
webbing. This revolutionized the fishing industry, allowing for much larger and cheaper nets to be manufactured. Nylon
nets have mostly disappeared, only a few still make cast nets the old fashion way, by hand knitting using nylon.

In summary, cotton nets were very maintenance, heavy when wet and would rot if not washed and dried after use and
did not last very long. Nylon nets were much better and stronger, however crabs and catfish were hard to get out of the
net and cuased damage to the webbing.

Monfilament on the other hand is virtually maintenance free, it is light, sinks quickly, does not absorb water and fish and
crabs fall right out. Monofilament nets are mostly made by cutting panels out of machine made webbing using a pattern
and sewing them together, monofilament is very difficult and slow to knot by hand and the knots will not stay tight.

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Canova de Medicis House
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Captain Jack Usina
Golden Book of the Minorcans
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