Have you ever had a cast net start to go “crunchy” on you? The monofilament line that makes up the netting gets stiff and hard with use and sun exposure over time. This tightens up the cast net making it harder to throw those nice net pancakes on the water. Be it a cheap cast net from Walmart or an expensive high-end cast net, they all still need to have maintenance work done on them occasionally. So today I’ll show yall how to take care of your cast nets. I’ll be conditioning an older cast net today that’s become stiff, an honestly super easy process that just takes a little time. This conditioning process can also be done on brand new cheaper cast nets to help loosen them up because often they are a bit stiff out of the box/bucket.
All you need to condition your cast net is a bucket, water, and some fabric softener. It is honestly a super simple process to do, just involves a bit of soaking time. I rinsed out the cast net before starting the conditioning process making sure to shake out any grass and leaves. For the bucket, I just used the one that came with the net. I’d say this 3.5-gallon bucket is as small as you want to go for this though.
Load the cast net horn first into the bucket. For the hand line, I coiled that up and place it in the center of the cast net, nestled in one of the layers of netting. Make sure the leadline is the last thing you place into the bucket. You need it to weigh down the net so all of it stays submerged during the fabric softener soak.
Once you got the net loaded into the bucket all nice and flat like in the picture above you can start adding some water into the bucket.
Just as an added rinse step, I stuffed the hose down under the net to force water up through it. Then left the hose running for a little bit to rinse out any other grass and junk that might have been still stuck in the mesh.
After letting the water run for a little while, I pour off some of the water and then measure out a capful of blue Downy fabric softener. Honestly, I don’t know if it has to be blue Downy but the guy who taught me used blue Downy and so does everyone else I know. I’d say any liquid fabric softener should work technically but I just use what I know.
Add in the capful of blue Downy fabric softener and mix it well with the water. I added in more water with the hose and then stirred it around to make sure it mixed up well.
If your bucket has a lid close the bucket so no bugs get in overnight, but if it doesn’t it’s fine. Just leave the bucket of net and fabric softener to the side for anywhere between twelve to twenty-four hours. You really don’t want to go past the twenty-four period though, it won’t destroy your cast net but all the old timers told me not to. I guess it softens up the monofilament too much.
This is the next afternoon, I let the net soak for twenty-four hours because it had been a long time since the last time I conditioned the net. Just pour off the fabric softener water and give the cast net a good hose down. Make sure to rinse all the excess fabric softener off the net and hand line.
Shake the excess water off the net and hand line. Then hang the net and hand line up in the shade to dry. Avoiding direct sunlight is important, the UV rays will damage the monofilament over time causing the net to be stiff again. When you hang the net make sure not to have the lead line hanging off the ground. You want slack in the cast net when it is hanging, if not all the knots of the net will tighten up, the netting will stretch, and the soft “broken in” feeling that you just worked for will be gone.
Once the cast net is done drying it’s ready to either take back on the water or be put away in the bucket it came with. If you do store it in the bucket make sure to leave the lid off for a while. More than likely there is gonna be residual moisture in either the lead line or hand line of the let. The last thing you want is moisture to be trapped with the net inside a sealed bucket.
After conditioning the cast net it felt great, no “crunchy” feeling in the mesh and no memory from being in the bucket for too long either. It did great, flattening out well when thrown and netting up all the shad I needed.
Besides conditioning the cast net there are some other things you have to do to keep your nets in good condition for a long time. Make sure to rinse them out after every fishing trip. You don’t want scales, slime, and other junk sitting in the nets. That will rot out the monofilament in the long term and give your cast nets a shorter lifespan. Make sure to dry your cast nets out after rinsing them as well, again not letting the lead line hang off the ground. If there are holes in the net from snagging on rocks or other underwater structures make sure to patch them up, throwing a net with holes will only make the hole get worse over time. Lastly don’t ever use soap on a cast net, it will damage the nylon monofilament of netting over time and ruin the net. If you take proper care of your nets expect them to last years, as long as you don’t throw them onto a rock or oyster bar.