Fishing was born out of necessity for man to feed himself and his family. Over time it has evolved into a recreational pastime and moved away from a generational skill passed down from father to son. Food can so easily be acquired at your local convenience store that fishing has become a lost art form to most. If we ever find ourselves in a situation where we are lost, without food, or the world as we know it ends. It will be particularly important to know how to procure food for you and your family.
The following information is on Survival Fishing. This is not fishing with a rod and reel but rather minimal equipment to keep you alive. There are many ways to fish and information on this subject is everywhere, however the following is tried and true and has worked well for me over the past several years. Most information in this article is for beginners, but I guarantee even a seasoned fisherman will pick up something new.
Fish are almost everywhere but knowing where to look will greatly improve your chances of landing one. The first thing that you need to understand is that fish love structure. They will congregate in areas where they can be protected from predators, find food, and stay cool or warm depending on climate. Overhanging brush and downed trees in and around water are great places to begin your search for fish. In places where structure is not present try looking for changes in water depth like drop offs or slopes. Fish will congregate more on slopes than flat bottom because of its use as a highway. Fish can use this area to travel from deep to shallow water in search of food. When moving into an area where you suspect fish may be present make sure to stay quiet and out of sight as much as possible. Spooking a fish will ensure failure. Fish will also mass in areas that save energy. They will hide behind rocks or stay in river bends to protect themselves from current and fast water. Undercuts in river banks and entrances to feeder streams will also be a great places to fish. This may sound silly but put yourself in the fish’s situation. They are in their own survival state of mind. They will find the most convenient, food rich, energy saving area to live. If you take these things into consideration you will be on the right path to landing fish, this is however only half the battle, now you must actually catch the fish.
I would first like to address that I know this is what everyone wants: a new lightweight addition to add to their kit. My only disclaimer is that you should use the kit and adapt it to your needs and skill level before having to use it in a life or death situation. Having a kit without the knowledge to use it will certainly lead to your early departure from this earth. Kits are small and compact because carrying a fishing pole, even the travel kind will only take up space and add unneeded weight. It’s merely inconvenient and illogical to carry modern gear. As we all know, “Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain.” I like to categorize my kit in a level 1 and level 2 tier. Contents of level 1 will carry over to 2 with their addition.
Tier 1 Emergency Pocket Sized Fishing Kit-This kit should be in your bug out bag or get home bag. It is for an emergency and will get you through a pinch until you can improve your situation. Items that are compact, multipurpose, and light are essential. Contents have the ability to be used in a variety of fishing situations with or without bait.
-Item Container X1 (Alum or Steel Case, such as an Altoids Can)
-Treble Hooks Size 1 X2
-Straight Shank Hooks Size 1 X2
-Straight Shank Hooks Size 2 X2
-Straight Shank Hooks Size 3 X2
-Wire Leader 40 pound X2
-Snap Swivels Assorted X6
-20 Pound Mono-fil Line X50 Feet (Wrap on Sewing Bobbin or Cardboard Cutout with Wings)
-60 Pound Mono-fil Line X50 Feet
-Small Stainless Steel Spoon X1 (With Weed Guard)
-Medium Spoon with Color X1 (Red and White Works Well)
-Large Stainless Steel Spoon X1 (With Weed Guard)
-Large Safety Pins X6 (Connect Them to Red or Yellow Fabric)
-Single Edge Razor Blade X1
-Large Saltwater Hook X1 (Based on biggest fish in your area)
-Square Styrofoam Block X2 (One Inch Long) (Used as Float)
-Jig-head with White Grub X2
-Fishing Knots Paper X1 (Basic Knot Printout or Drawn Diagram)
-The container can be used to cook your catch or boil small amounts of water. You can also shine the inside of the can to use as a signaling device.
-The Fabric can be used on a bare hook as bait if you have nothing else, color attracts fish.
-The fishing knots paper can double as dry tinder.
-Place a long strip of duct tape around the top and bottom seals of your case to keep contents from spilling and also to use the tape for other applications.
-Place your hooks in the Styrofoam for storage but use it as a homemade float during operation.
Tier 2 Traveling Fishing Kit -Ultra-light backpackers, Hikers, or Wilderness bug out bags should have this kit. This item is not just for emergencies but can be used on the go for a subsistence lifestyle or adventurer. This kit can be used to fish whenever and wherever. Everything that was included in the Tier 1 kit is included in this kit plus the following contents.
-Double Your Tier 1 Gear X1 (Double)
-Nalgene Bottle For Container X1
-Nail Clippers X1
-Power Bait Dough in Bait Can X1
-Bloodworm Fish bites X1 Pack
-Super Glue X2 (Set Knots or Repair Gear)
-Small Pocket Knife X1
-550 Cord X50 Feet
-Baby Wipes X1 Pack (Hygiene Purposes)
-Duct Tape X20 Feet (Wrap around your Nalgene)
-Screw in Circle Hook X3 (Can be used as eyelets on sticks to make expedient Rods)
-Mesh Laundry Bag X1 (Use for Net or Chum Bag)
-Black trash bags X2 (Thick Black Trash Bags)
-Signaling Whistle X1
-Signal Mirror X1
-Magnesium fire starter X1
-BIC Lighter X1
-Multi-Tool Leatherman or Gerber X1 (Uses too many to List)
-Snare Wire X15 Feet
-Line can be wrapped around the Nalgene bottle and thrown with the other hand to gain distance.
-550 cord innards can be tied together to make tough line, nets, or build fishing systems to set overnight.
-A Laundry Bag is also a great tool for food gathering or can be fashioned into an expedient backpack with 550 cord straps. This is not comfortable for heavy loads but to carry miscellaneous gear or found items it can keep your hands free.
Using bait to catch fish is much easier that artificial lure fishing. Using that last scrap of food might get you a bigger meal in the long run. Grubs and worms work well if you know where to look. Tree stumps, dead animals, overturned rocks, or digging small holes can all be easy ways to procure bait.
Tip: After catching your first fish check it’s insides to see what it has been eating, this will help you catch more fish. Save all the left-overs for bait as well.
How to Fish
Time is critical in a survival situation and most fishing takes patience. This means that you should use fishing in conjunction with other food gathering methods such as snaring, hunting, or gathering. Your goal is to save energy, getting cold, wet, or exhausting yourself may simply not be worth the calories you expend. Know when and when not to fish. Using your hand to reel in line or rolling your line around your Nalgene or Altoids container can work, but making your own rod by using your screw in circle hooks as eyelets can allow you to give more action and lifelike presentation to your bait. Tying your line on the end of a stick can achieve the same thing if you’re not going use the eyelets and will be cutting your line. The purpose of the eyelets is to allow line to pass through therefore not snapping your line in case of a large fish. It also places pressure at the top of the homemade rod over the fish to keep the pressure upward. When you feel the fish take the line set the hook by pulling up and applying constant pressure. Trying to pull your fish directly out of water will sometimes result in a snapped line or lost fish. Instead walk backwards landing the fish on the bank. It is hard for a fish to escape on land.
Fishing with bait The Easiest way to fish is to drop your bait in and wait for the bites, patience is key but if you don’t get any strikes within 10 minutes change depth or location.
If you have no bait almost anything can be made to attract fish. Color, Smell, and Movement all attract fish. If you have nothing else then the red or yellow fabric in your kit can be used on a hook by just moving it up and down until you get a strike.
The jig head and grub combo or attached bait is used by throwing line out and giving life like action while reeling in. Pop the Jig a few inches off the bottom while moving forward a few inches to work an area. Fish tend to go for fast moving retrieves in warm climates and slow retrieves in cold climates. Just like you or me fish become lethargic in the cold. This is not always the case but it is a good place to start. If you don’t get anything change it up and keep trying.
Set lines- Used barbed hooks so you don’t lose your fish. Tie the end of your line to a stable feature like a tree or root. Secure the other end with a rock or weight to set the line. Use several lines or one long line with multiple hooks but ensure you check it often. Hourly is a good idea, if left overnight most fish will escape.
Don’t try to overpower a fish or set the hook with extreme force. These are common mistakes with novice fisherman. They get excited and try to overpower fish. Let the fish fatigue and work them to the bank by keeping constant pressure on the line. Setting the hook is a slight jerk and not a full body action. Going to hard may rip the hook right out of the fish’s mouth.
-I can’t say it enough, try your kit and catch fish; this is the only way to ensure you are prepared when you need it most.
Other Fishing Methods
Spear-A simple stick with an angled point to an edge (Not Center) will work but cutting barbs in two or more points attached with the 550 cord making a fish gaff is more effective. Fish Trap-Nothing more than stacked rocks or sticks placed vertically in the soil to form a wall in shallow streams or rivers. A box with a narrow opening is made with a wall going several inches inside the opening on both sides. Wide wings on the outside are made channeling fish into the small gap. Fish can get in but not out. Place pieces of bait inside or chum the water with your laundry bag. Net-You can make a gill net with your 550 cord but this is very time consuming and requires a lot of prior knowledge and practice. Instead you can use your laundry bag across a stream or river channel secured with two sticks on the edges. You can then move several hundred feet away and scare fish into your trap by hitting the water with a stick corralling them in. This works best in narrow areas were the fish have no other path but into the trap. Cleaning Fish
Cleaning fish for survival is a little bit different than your everyday fishing. You don’t want to waste any part of your fish. Your left over parts such as the scales, head, tail, and guts can all be used as chum or bait. Allow no part of your catch to go unused. Fish spoil very easily so if you are catching multiple fish it is advised to keep them alive using your 550 cord as a stringer until you are ready to clean them. (A Stringer is nothing more than cord going through the mouth and out the gill cover to keep the fish secured in water. Make sure to tie the end of the cord to a rock or stick spike.) Boot laces work well if you have no other cord. Try your best to clean your fish within an hour depending on your climate. You can wait longer in colder climates.
-Don’t clean your fish at your camp, move at least 150 meters away to keep your camp clean and also predators away
-To scale your fish use your knife with light pressure going from tail to gill holding the fish firmly. They will simply peel off.
-Your first cut should be made from the anus to the head, this should be a short incision and not deep enough to puncture any guts or innards.
-Pull out all the insides and save for later.
-If your fish is large enough to get a fillet than you can cut the head off but if not leave it on and cook as is.
-For larger fish you can run your knife from the spine to the belly going along the bones to get the largest fillet. -Save everything else for later and rinse your edible parts in clean water.
Cooking Your Fish
-After gutting small fish can be stuck on a stick and cooked as is. Make sure you are not placing the fish in the flames. Use the heat from the fire not the fire itself. A roasting stick can be placed in the ground so you can tend to camp while cooking. You can tell you fish is cooked when the skin peels off easily and the backbone separates from the meat.
Altoids Can Cooking-
I suggest your emergency fishing kit being contained in the can because it can be used as a mini pan to cook your chow. Making a platform out of two rocks or large logs is easy and can last for quite some time.
If you have the ability to boil fish than do so. It is an excellent way to keep all the nutrients of the fish. Using a soda can, canteen cup or some other type of container can get the job done.
We have gone through everything from catching to cooking your fish. After reading this I believe that even a novice with the right tools will be far better informed and able to keep themselves alive. These things are all my opinion and there is always room for improvement or customization. You should use this as a baseline and create your own Kit. Remember that this is just one skill to survive uncertain times. Knowledge is power, always learn more and test yourself and your kit often.