An art as old as Hilton Head: Cast net throwing

Cast net fishing is one of the most basic techniques to catch shrimp or small bait fish as you prepare for day of fishing on Hilton Head Island. Cast nets have been used for thousands of years and certainly as long as people have lived on Hilton Head Island.

Cast nets are, well, nets, with weights at the edges, called a lead line. Cast nets make it easy to catch shrimp in pools as the tide goes out. Cast net fishing also is a quick, easy and cheap way to land a supply of live bait wherever they congregate.

Nets can be cast from shore, piers or boats, said Scott Moody, who teaches cast-net throwing at Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. He uses an old-school method in which you hold part of the lead line in your teeth as you get a pendulum going to cast the net.

Other methods, from Cuban, Long Island to old school, all arrive at the same end result, a fully open net.

“I grew up in Saudi Arabia and learned to cast net in the Persian Gulf,“ Scott said. “There, you’d see men in water up to their chests and throw 40-foot-wide nets. That takes a lot of strength.”

He moved with his parents to Hilton Head Island 30 years ago. The natural beauty of the island has kept him here since, where he puts his fishing and professional photography talents to good use.

Cast net lessons start on land to hone the technique.

For his lessons at Coastal Discovery, he invites children as young as age 5 to adults. He gives kids a smaller three-foot cast net and lets them loose on the lawn, netting nematodes. “You have to be tall enough to reach the center of the net,” Scott said. Pardon the pun, but once they catch a few nematodes, they’re hooked on the technique.

“I also teach adults on land because they don’t want to get all wet and dirty,” Scott said. “Kids LOVE getting all wet and dirty.”

On land or casting into the water, Scott offers the lessons from 2 to 3 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays, March through May. The cost is $10 per person and reservations are required. Call 843-689-6767, ext. 223. Check out Coastal Discovery’s website for all kinds of awesome outings.

“Cast net fishing is a great way to catch live bait or Hilton Head Island shrimp,” Scott said. “It’s also a great workout.”