Mike Usina Casts Minorcan Magic at Made in St. Augustine®

 Mike Usina of Minorcan Magic hand making a cast net. Be sure to visit him at his booth at  Made in St. Augustine  to watch him work his magic!

Mike Usina of Minorcan Magic hand making a cast net. Be sure to visit him at his booth at Made in St. Augustine to watch him work his magic!

A spool of twine, a needle, a mesh board, nimble fingers and time. These are the tools Mike Usina needs to create Minorcan Magic

Usina isn’t a magician in the traditional sense. But once you watch him tie knot after knot to transform bonded nylon into a 7-foot cast net - you will agree he is a magician in his own right.

Usina began hand making cast shrimp and mullet nets more than 65 years ago. While the English cast net made from bonded nylon is his favorite, he has made all types of fishing nets using an array of materials including linen, cotton, Nycott, braided spectra fiber and braided Dacron. 

Usina makes cast nets of all sizes (and will custom make them to order). Because Minorcan men were historically under 6 feet tall, a 7-foot cast net was a common size as it was just right for wading out into the surf and casting on schools of passing mullet. Of late, the demand for Usina’s nets has been for 4 to 10-foot mullet and shrimp nets.

Ironically, Usina began making nets around the same time they began being manufactured by machines. Although it takes about 30 hours for Usina to hand make a 7-foot one inch mesh mullet net, the end result is far superior to the manufactured counterpart. A handmade net is “alive”. The net is more flexible, making it easier to cast, the net webbing lays flat and the materials are of higher quality.

For Usina, the best part of hand making a cast net is the knowledge that he has created the best net possible. He loves seeing his customers’ faces light up when they realize the quality of the net. He said it makes his time in labor completely worthwhile.

Stemming from a long line of Minorcan fishermen, Usina says he fit in naturally with the mullet on the beach. Ancestry combined with a lack of extracurricular activities for a kid growing up in St. Augustine in the 1940s and 50s led Usina to learn the art of hand making cast nets from his father and older brothers.

Usina has not only carried on the tradition of hand making nets, he shares his passion with others through instructional videos and demonstrations. Be sure to visit him at his booth at Made in St. Augustine to watch him work his magic!