How to Catch Shad with a Throw Net in the Winter

The best time to find true trophy class blue catfish (40lb and above) is any time the water temperature is below 50 degrees, usually in the winter. Here is how you can always find and catch fresh shad for bait.


  1. 1
    Be aware that in the winter, bait (shad) is notoriously difficult to find and catch.
  2. 2
    Go deep in the cold water. This sometimes needs to be as much as 50 feet. The shad form tight schools that cruise along the bottom searching for food. They are virtually invisible to the older fish-finding sonar units.
  3. 3
    Search hard to find a place where the shad have been attacked by predatory fish, like stripers or catfish. The shad will form a protective tight ball to protect individual shad from attack. Look for the pattern of the ball of shad above the bottom on the sonar unit and drop a round cast net on them. There is a learning curve involved, but there are other preparations to make before casting the net at them.
  4. 4
    Add sufficient handle to the net to reach the target depth. The cast net generally comes with 25 feet of handline, not nearly enough if the shad are 50 feet deep.
    • Cast nets come in various sizes from 3.5ft to 20ft radius. A 3.5 ft net will open up to make 7 feet across.
    • In Oklahoma, there is no limit as to the maximum size of net that can be used, so you can use a 10 foot net. (Some other states require maximums of 7 feet and some States do not allow them to be used at all.) The purpose of a larger radius net has to do with the depth of the water. As a net sinks, the actual netting causes resistance against the water, closing the net as it falls. A 10 foot radius (20 ft diameter) net is only 12 feet in diameter by the time it reaches 50 feet.
  5. 5
    Cruise slowly while watching the sonar for a large number of flashes in a single spot. Quickly cast your net directly over the shad and allow the net to go all the way to the bottom. Once it is there, the work begins.
  6. 6
    Steadily pull the net back up to the boat and grab the "horn" of the net. Lift the net over your prepared cooler and allow the net to open directly into the cooler, dumping your catch neatly into the chest.
  7. 7
    Rinse the net. When you have captured enough bait for the trip, rinse the net out over the side and then allow it to dry or roll it up until you get back to the house, then unroll it and allow it to dry. Mildew will destroy an expensive net.
  8. 8
    Prepare the shad. The shad should always be cut in at least two pieces. The smallest ones are cut and baited with both parts. Use circle hooks for best results.


  • Prepare a cooler for bait by filling it with 20 pounds of crushed ice and then heavily salting it on top with ice melting salt. Cover the cooler until the shad are netted, then open it to drop the shad in from the net. The shad will immediately freeze and be preserved for the day of fishing. Dead shad spoil quickly. When the shad is cut, it should bleed as if fresh. Otherwise, it is too spoiled and will only attract channel catfish or drum.

Things You'll Need

  • Fish finding sonar
  • Throw net
  • Cooler and crushed ice
  • Circle hooks

Article Info

Categories: Fishing