When it comes to fishing, it’s hard to beat a gillnet. They’re so effective, in fact, that they are almost universally banned in the lower US. That should be a clue to us and one we should store away in our minds. We’ve all seen someone on one of the survival shows use a gillnet. I’ve also seen people try to use the wrong net for this same purpose.
A cast net is not a gillnet. It’s the wrong shape. The mesh is generally too small, and it has pounds and pounds of lead around it’s circumference. If you have a cast net, use it like one. They can be highly effective at catching fish. The down side to them are numerous. First, they are heavy and will wear you out quickly. Second, it’s active fishing, just like with a pole. You’re committed to doing this one activity and nothing else. The biggest drawback is getting it hung up on an underwater obstruction and losing or damaging it.
The gillnet allows you to set it and forget it. Go tend to other jobs that need done and come back and check on it later. Hopefully to harvest your bounty of fish. As easy as this sounds though, there are a few considerations when it comes to your net. The biggest thing is to get right is the mesh size for the fish you’re targeting.
If your mesh is too big, they’ll swim right through it. Conversely, too small and they’ll never get into it. So, you do have to size it properly. If you’re making your net, you can obviously form it to the correct mesh. If you’re going to buy one, it’s important to get it right. Otherwise, you’re wasting your money at worst and restricting your catch at best.
I’ve only ever seen people make a gillnet one way. And, it’s not the correct way. While it does work, it’s not the way commercial nets are made. The typical method for making a survival style net is to string a cord between two trees fairly taut. Then, you take sections of cord twice as long as you want your net to be deep, half them and secure to the top line with a lark’s head. You add these, spaced at close intervals, down the entire length of the top line.
Here is where a lot of people make a mistake. If you’re going to use this method, before you start, make or find a gauge to keep things consistent. All you need is something flat, say two-to-two and a half-inch wide. A round one will work as well. You use this to ensure all your knots are tied at the same place, keeping your net even.
To begin, grab one of the outer two strands and one of the following set. Place your gauge against your top line and tie a simple overhand in the two pieces you’re holding at the bottom of the gauge. Repeat this process down the length of the line. You’ve now made the first row of your net.
At the far end, take the single line not yet used and tie it to the one of the two on the last loop created. This is a little confusing, but this is what creates the edges of the net. It will need done on both sides as you proceed down the net. Essentially, you end up with a half loop at these locations.
Just proceed back and forth, using your gauge to keep everything even, until you’re at the bottom of the net. Most people just leave it at that. But I recommend adding another line between the two trees at the bottom and securing the last row of loops to this line using the excess hanging there. It will make it easier to set your net.
Commercial nets are made by tying the loops in a slightly different manner. You start with a single loop and use your gauge to get the mesh right and continue down. Here, you’re establishing the depth of your net. It’s simply too difficult for me to explain this method. There are a number of YouTube videos you can watch on how to do it.
Once started, it’s very easy, just mind-numbingly repetitive. Once you have the depth of your net, you flip it over and go back up doing the same thing. Now, you’re working on the length.
There are a few ways to set your net. The most common survival method employs simply placing it between two upright posts forced into the bed of whatever body of water you’re fishing and tying the net between them.
This makes for a static net and is very good for areas with a tidal shift, as you can set it in low tide and the action of the incoming and outgoing tide will carry fish into it. At low tide, you can walk out and check your net. This is a little harder to do in a pond or lake.
Another method is attaching floats to the top and weights to the bottom. This set will move with current and fishes the top of the water column. You’ll need to anchor one or both ends depending on thecurrent and this can be done with trees or rocks. The other method, and one most people do not consider, is a bottom set.
The bottom set has the advantage of not being easily detected from casual observation. The net is weighted with sufficient weight to get it to the bottom of the body of water. On either end of the net will be long lines, enough to reach the surface, where floats are attached. It’s good to add a couple large anchors that can be sunk out from either flank, keeping the net spread out. The two floats at either end hold the net upright. In this manner, you’re fishing the bottom of the water column.
Gillnets can also be used for hunting. Spreading it on the surface in a matted weed bed is a good way to ensnare wading birds. You can also use it on land, spreading it out flat on the ground and using a counterweight that can pull it up to trap and ensnare birds feeding through the mesh.
If the net is made from sufficiently strong material, you can also string it between trees and drive wildlife into it. Again, you’re only limited by your imagination.
While you can make your own net out of paracord or other cordage, you can also buy a commercial version to have just in case you need it. They’re not terribly expensive and can be a valuable tool in acquiring meat. Best Glide makes a decent net that is available on Amazon. It comes with the weights, so it makes it really easy to use. Here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004INMG98/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=angerameri-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B004INMG98&linkId=10e1f7bc32e7cd7b6da57cc10ee64379
While this is an effective net, I do not like it because it is constructed of monofilament. Mono can easily take a memory and make it a nightmare to set and untangle. Worse yet, it is rather delicate and can easily be damaged by large fish or other aquatic critters.
Another net, made by Survival Net, is available on Amazon. It’s called the Camper and is constructed of heavier duty material. The only drawback is that it does not come pre-weighted, but then this also saves weight in a pack if you’re looking to include it in your kit. This net weighs less than five ounces and fits in a quart bag. It’s constructed from a multi-filament material and will last much longer. Here’s a link to Amazon for this version: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XNKKK2R/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=angerameri-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B06XNKKK2R&linkId=f8d07e53cb5ddfdf91db7958bf4d98ff
A gillnet is a great passive method to acquire protein. And as stated, it’s not just for fish. You can use it any number of ways to help add meat to the menu. Whether you make your own, or buy one, a gillnet should be in everyone’s toolbox. It’s just that useful.