Cast netting is an art form from making it, to throwing it, to eating the treasures that lie underneath. My grandpa, who is still called “Red” because of his once red hair, and his railroad fishing buddies taught me this art form. I was motivated to learn the dying practice because it was one of those traditions that unless my generation learns it will be gone forever.
Making a cast net is hard work. There’s no other way to put it. Your fingers cramp from tying double half hitch after double half hitch. Your back aches from hunching over the linen net. You mind daydreams causing you to screw up a knot and then have to either cut it out or spend the next 30 minutes untangling the knot. It is as tedious a task as I ever undertaken. But once you are finished a sense of satisfaction follows because now, as a fellow cast netter said, you’ll be able to put grub on the table if the need arises. This coming from a fella who grew up poor and has risen out of it.
Throwing a cast net is something beautiful to behold. I’ll be the first to say that I’m not the best at it. Others that go on mullet fishing trips to the quaint town of Matlache with its Caribbean colored buildings lining the street have such a fluid motion that they look akin to a grungy camouflaged Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It—which in our case should be A Back Bay Runs Through It. The nets sing off their shoulder, down their scrawny forearms, through their sinewy fingers, and onto the salt water in the likeness of making pizza dough.
Once the green painted net hits the water the same dyed weights drag it to the bottom covering what you hope is a few black mullet if your aim and speed were precise. And you’ll know right quick if they are under there, because they’ll begin jumping just like they do without a net over them. Jumping for a mullet is learned trait from having to run from many a grey porpoise. From here, goodness and excitement seep into your bones like a warm Florida night. You gently kneel in the water grabbing each mullet with your cramped hands, and break their neck so as to drain the blood hereby preserving the meat and preventing it from getting a strong odor. Once you’ve done ended the life of all the mullet under the net, you place them on a stringer that is hopefully getting full.
Although the mullet are still now securely fastened on the stringer following you as a mullet shadow, your stomach is jumping knowing that soon and very soon you’ll taste their scrumptious meat after a long day of mullet hunting. A meal that will include grits, biscuits, and fries. A meal that will rock you to sleep as gently as those waves that lapped against your aluminum jon boat.