outdoor gear How Does A Gill Net Work? (2023)
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How Does A Gill Net Work? (2023)

Have you heard of gill nets but you don’t quite know what they are? Click here to learn what a gill net actually is and how it works when it comes to fishing.

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How Does A Gill Net Work?

There are lots of different methods by which fishing is done. From simply sitting on the side of a lake and using a rod, all the way to large fishing ships.

If you are a fisherman yourself or you are interested in becoming one, it’s important to learn about the different methods that are available.

One such method that is used more by commercial fishermen involves the use of a gill net. But how does a gill net work?

If you have never heard of a gill net before, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to explain exactly what a gill net is, how it works, and some other useful information about it you should know about.

How does a gill net work?

What Is A Gill Net?

If you have never heard of a gill net before then it is basically a type of single-wall netting that gets anchored onto the seabed in order to catch fish that are swimming there.

“Gill net” is actually a name for quite a lot of different nets as well as being its own style of net. Sometimes, you may hear the phrase gill net and it won't be this type of net.

Lots of these nets will also have different names, such as Drift nets, Trammel nets, Gill nets, and Tangle nets, but the names will differ depending on which fishery you are in.

And by the way, you can

make a gill net too, but most people buy them to ease the process.

For this article though, we are referring to actual gill nets that are designed to catch fish as they are swimming on the seabed.

How Does A Gill Net Work?

Now you know what a gill net is, let’s talk about how it works. These nets are a type of single-wall net that is made out of monofilament nylon and they are set on the seabed floor.

Once they are set on the seabed floor, they are left alone for fish to swim into.

Each end of the net is anchored to the seabed by ways of a ‘foot-rope’ and then they are held up by a floating ‘head line’.

Each gill net has a different mesh size and soak time, which purely depends on the species of fish it is used to catch.

Gill nets are also designed to be selective and specific in terms of which fish they will catch.

If a species of fish is smaller than the net size, it will be able to pass through without being harmed.

As for fish that are too big for the net, they will simply hit the net and be deflected away from it.

Only fish of the correct size that matches the net will actually get caught.

The gill net is designed to let their heads go through and then it catches them by their gills.

This stops the fish of the right size from being able to get away, and it means fishermen don’t have to watch the net all day.


Environmental Impact Of Gill Nets

Though gill netting might seem like a productive and efficient way to fish, it, unfortunately, comes with a few environmental problems.

Because the nets are size-selective, this means that larger and smaller fish won't be affected or caught, but in some areas, cetaceans can get caught up in the net.

Most fishermen are aware of this already though, so they use things like acoustic pingers to keep those cetaceans away from the net.

Those that don’t use acoustic pingers though still have issues with cetaceans.

There have also been some problems with ‘ghost fishing’ when using gill nets.

Ghost fishing is basically when the gill nets are lost and they continue to catch fish after they have been lost.

This has negatively impacted some species numbers, but to mitigate this issue, fishermen are required to report lost gill nets when they can.

There are also some problems where the lost nets have gotten tangled in weeds and fallen to the bottom of the seabed, catching unaware fish in the process.

The gill nets aren’t a huge problem in terms of abrasions to the sea bed though.

Lost nets are always a problem when it comes to the fish and animals located in the area, but fishermen are heavily encouraged to report lost nets so they can be found faster, reducing the risks.

Species Caught Using Gill Netting

Gill nets are used to catch a few different species of fish, but the most popular species that are usually caught via gill netting include:

  • Swordfish
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Tuna

There are other species of fish that are caught using the gill netting method, but these are the most common and notable species of fish.

Gill nets also catch some species of fish and other animals by accident as well, some of which include birds, sharks, and other larger marine mammals.


Are Gill Nets Legal?

The legality of gill nets is constantly changing, and it vastly depends on which country, state, or location you are based in.

Some states in the US are perfectly legal for gill netting, while other states have banned it and made it illegal.

In the states where gill netting is legal, there are specific requirements that fishermen must meet in order to use them.

The nets themselves cannot exceed a certain size or length, and they must be monitored frequently.

If the gill net gets lost, damaged, or caught, the fishermen must report the lost net and remove any damaged ones from their fishing spots.

The legality and ethics of fishing with a gill net vary because of the environmental impact and danger to certain species it poses.



Gill netting is a type of fishing that is designed to catch specific species of fish.

The gill nets vary in size, depending on the species of fish you are trying to catch and the legality of the net’s length, so there is no set size or length when it comes to this kind of net.

If you have never used a gill net before, always make sure it is legal to do so and take someone with experience when using them.

And once you've properly, legally, and safely made your first catch, be sure to pull out your Traeger or Pit Boss grill to celebrate!

Or for a more rustic experience, pull out your Breeo fire pit to cook over an open fire on the beach!

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