What are Different Types of Fishing Nets? [Beginners Guide]

Different Types of Fishing Nets

Fishing nets are not necessary needed by every angler, especially if fishing for small fish like panfish. But, having a net can make your life a lot easier.

These small nets used for landing a fish are not the only type of nets. We can find various types from small to huge, used for commercial fishing.

Most common types of fishing nets are landing nets (used by anglers), drift nets, surrounding nets, and trap nets. Of course, there are various sub-types of nets. For example, gill and trammel nets are a type of drift nets. There are also cast nets, and other types of smaller nets used by certain fishing communities.

As an angler, you are probably focused on landing nets only, but it is always useful to learn something new about angling and fishing.

Nets are used worldwide, and although they may have some disadvantages, they are a vital part of fishing industry.

Beginners are often confused with all of the types, so I decide to write this short guide about fishing net types and their use. Of course, it would be impossible to list all of them, because hundreds of variations exist around the world.



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What Is the Use of Fishing Net?

Fishing nets are used to catch fish by surrounding or trapping them, at least when explained in simple words. When talking about commercial fishing, nets are used to trap a lot of fish and to pull them up on a fishing boat.

Not all nets are large, commercial ones. There are small types of nets that are used singlehandedly in communities where people fish for food, and not for sport.

And the last usage is to land a fish. Those are the smallest nets which are used by anglers who need them to scoop up a hooked fish and get it out of the water (important when fishing in a catch and release way).

There is no other fishing method that can catch as much fish as a fishing net, and these tools are crucial in fishing. Large nets can cover very large areas and catch tons of fish at once.

Do You Always Need a Net When Fishing?

If you are a commercial fisherman, you obviously do, but what about recreational anglers?

When fishing for tiny fish, you do not need it. But it is a lot easier if you have one. For larger fish like carp, having a landing net is necessary. First of all, it will make the experience of landing fish better for you, and secondly for the fish.

Keeping fish unharmed and handling it with care is especially important for catch and release. Dragging it out from the water while the fish fights will most certainly result in injuries, and if you release an injured fish, there is a high chance that it will not survive.

Landing nets are relatively light, easy to transport, and some models are collapsible so that they occupy less space. In my opinion, they are worth having, even if you are catching small species.

Different Types of Fishing Nets Used by Fishermen [With Pictures]

As already mentioned, there are numerous types of fishing nets, and here I will mention the most common ones.


Landing nets are used by anglers to land a fish. These nets have long handles and hoops that are holding the net. These nets are mostly used for carp, catfish, and fish of similar size, in both fresh and saltwater.

Landing nets are handheld, and can be used from the shore, on a boat, or basically anywhere.

Different Types of Fishing Nets - Fishermen


These nets are moving freely along with the currents. Among common drift net types are Gill nets (that will be mentioned later on) and Trammel nets. They catch fish by tangling them into the net. Commercial fishing vessels are using these nets in a way that they drop them of in a certain location and leave them up over night. Nets have floats along the upper side and weights on the bottom side. While it drifts around, it encounters fish, that will tangle in it when swimming through.


These are stationary types of fishing nets that are used in locations like estuaries. They form a chamber and make it easy for a fish to get in, but almost impossible to get out.


Cast nets are a type used by fishermen who are catching small number of fish, mostly from small boats. They are circular, with weights attached around them. Size can vary, but they are all small enough to be thrown and pulled back by one person.

Different Types of Fishing Nets - Trap


These nets are usually heavier, and they can capture the fish by surrounding them. Most common sub types of surrounding nets are Seine nets.

Seine nets are large nets that can be divided into a few additional types, but they all function on the same principle. For example, purse seine has floats on top and weights on the bottom. It can surround a large number of fish, and to capture them. There is a line that runs through the bottom part and it is used to “close” the net and retrieve fish onto the boat.

Beach versions also exist that can be operated from the shore and are used for much smaller quantities.

Different Types of Fishing Nets - Commercial


There are two main types, and those are bottom trawling and midwater trawling.

Bottom ones have concial shape. These nets are towed by the fishing vessel over the bottom. They collect fish into the nets.

Midwater nets are cone-shaped too and work in the same way, just at a different depth. Both kinds of trawling nets can be towed by one or more boats.

Fishermen around the world also use fixed gillnets, hand nets, lift nets, push nets and many other.

Different Types of Commercial Fishing Nets

All of the different types of fishing nets mentioned above can be used on smaller scale, and smaller boats, for catching much lower quantities than commercial vessels would catch.

But, commercial nets we know today were created as advanced version of smaller ones, and some of those mentioned before are used for commercial fishing too.

Of course, it largely depends on a scale of commercial fishing and how you define commercial. Commercial can be defined as catching large number of fish that is going to be sold. But you can sell to your local community, or you can sell world-wide. For smaller scale, almost any net can be commercial, but on a larger scale, you need nets with huge capacity.

Types of commercial fishing nets frequently used around the world are surrounding nets, trawling nets, and drift nets, when it comes to catching tons of fish.

Some of the nets, like drift nets, can be a few miles long. In some parts of the world their size and usage are strictly limited.

Largest trawling nets have a span of few hundred meters. The largest of them all, together with a towing vessel, can process up to 250 tons of fish in a single day.

What Is the Difference Between Trolling and Trawling?

When talking about uses of fishing net, I have to mention trolling and trawling. Trolling is a popular fishing technique where baited hooks are towed behind a boat to lure the fish.

This method is very popular among recreational anglers around the world, and it can be practiced in both fresh and saltwater. It is used for various predatory species, from walleye to tuna. And of course, nets are not required, except for landing nets, that can make landing of fish easier.

Trawling on the other hand, is mostly used for commercial fishing, and as described in the previous chapters, it is a fishing technique where boats are towing large nets behind them.

It is a very controversial form of commercial fishing due to huge devastation done to the bottom.

Is it Legal to Fish With Fishing Nets?

Fishing nets are perfectly legal if used in accordance with the law. Of course, rules vary around the world, and you can’t use your recreational angler license to fish with nets. Only net that you can use freely is a landing net.

For commercial nets, you need special licenses, you need licensed boats, and there are dozens of rules about allowed catch, methods, and everything. Of course, you can’t use them in protected areas.

But, what about small nets like cast nets?

I can’t give you a precise answer because it varies from one country or even state, to another. In the US, it is allowed in most coastal waters, but there are some restrictions about mesh size and net size. You also have a limit on fish quantity.

When it comes to permits, you will often need additional ones, and you can’t cast a net with a basic recreational license. Fr example, in Pennsylvania and Texas you can use them for non-game fish, and you need special permits for waterways where casting nets are allowed.

Carefully check the rules stated by local authorities stated on official websites.

Why is Fishing With Nets Bad? [Gill Net Fishing]

Fishing nets have a few disadvantages, especially on a commercial level. First of all there is bycatch. Bycatch is any creature that has been caught accidentally. That can be sharks, dolphins, even sea lions. It can be any protected and endangered species too. On large commercial vessels with huge nets, these creatures almost always die.

One of the worst are gill nets. Gill nets are designed in a way to catch fish by tangling behind their gills. This method will certainly kill any fish that ends up in it. The net itself stays in the water for long enough so that non-targeted species get tangled, from fish to mammals. This happens very often due to the fact that gill nets are mostly used overnight, when they are less visible to fish.

But, gill nets, although very bad, are not the only problem.

Another problem is damage done to the ecosystem, especially by bottom trawling nets. These nets leave vast bottom behind them because they destroy seaweed and all living creatures that get in the way, including corals.

In addition to that, there are so called “ghost nets”. Those are nets that have been lost or thrown away and they pollute the oceans.

Different Types of Fishing Nets - Gill Net


Various types of fishing nets exist and have been around for thousands of years. Those we have today are a result of progress in technologies and increasing demand for fish.

Some small nets are used only to land a fish, and recreational anglers frequently have them. Slightly larger ones, like cast nets, may be used to catch a bit more fish than you would with a rod, but they are nothing compared to large commercial types.

Largest commercial nets can be a few miles long, and catch tons of fish at once. Although nets can have a bad impact on the environment if used in an unsustainable way, they are a crucial tool for catching fish around the world.

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