Any body of water has the possibility of housing fish. Without a firearm or bulky gear to make a trap, fishing is probably your best bet in finding food during a survival situation. Instead of foraging for possibly dangerous plants to eat, most fish are edible—especially ones found in fresh water. Only requiring a few small items or things you can find, fishing for survival is easier than trying to hunt, trap and kill small animals without a firearm. A lure, a few hooks and a several yards of fishing line will easily fit in a mint tin, medicine bottle or other very small container, taking up very little room in your pack. Always have an emergency fishing kit with you when you venture out in the wilderness or during travel—just in case.
If you do not have an emergency fishing kit with you, you can still fashion a primitive fishing rod with found items.
Find a long branch or stick thick enough around to hold a few ounces of weight. With a knife, carve an indention all the way around on one end. This is where you will wrap and secure your fishing line.
If you are near a body of water, especially a bigger pond, lake or river, you might be lucky enough to find tangled fishing line entwined between vegetation around the banks. If not, use thin green vines, shoe laces, dental floss, wire, string, paracord or any other line-type material you can find. Wrap it tightly around your makeshift pole, leaving enough line to drop into shallow water.
Way back when, hooks were primitively carved from wood or bone. Instead of the curved hooks we use today, fishermen would file a piece of wood or bone into a straight, sharp point on both ends—more like a spear than a hook. Being out in the wilderness, you should have a good survival knife with you. Whittle both ends of a one to two inch piece of wood into sharp points for a hook. Further, needles, a bent safety pin, bent paper clips, a nail, thick heavy thorns, a sharp metal shard and soda or beer can tabs also work as hooks. Tie one end of your hook to your fishing line. When searching for hooks, pick smaller rather than large. It will be easier and faster to catch smaller fish.
Lures and Bait
I have caught fish with live worms, pieces of sandwich bread and with plastic lures. Live bugs are an excellent way to attract fish to your hook. Look under rocks for bugs. Fish also like shiny things, so anything you can attach to your line that attracts the fishes’ attention will help reel them in. Soda tabs, pieces of foil, jewelry, metal scraps, and even brightly colored cloth can lure a fish.
Some fish traps are illegal. Do not attempt to make a fish fence or trotline unless you are fishing for survival. Please double check your local fishing laws before setting fishing traps.
You can trap fish along the edge of the water bank by making a fish fence. Gather a bunch of sticks that are longer than the water is deep. Along the water bank, make a V-shaped fence using your sticks, making sure the sticks are securely stuck in the mud on the bottom of the water, but sticking up far enough out so the fish cannot swim out of your fence. On the deeper waterside of the fence, leave a small opening between your sticks so fish can swim in. Put some bait inside the fence, another fish, some bugs or worms or shiny objects and wait. When a fish swims into the fence, he cannot get back out.
If you have plenty of hooks and fishing line, you can create a trotline that lets you tend to other needs, like building a fire, making a shelter and procuring fresh water while catching fish in your trap. Making a trotline requires several supplies. You will need a rope long enough to span across the body of water, plenty of fishing line, hooks, weights and floats.
First, find paracord, rope or twine (you can use long vines tied together) that reaches the length between both sides of the body of water, with enough room left over on either side of the cord to tie to a tree or other hearty structure.
Second, starting at one end of the main cord tie fishing line at three- to four-foot intervals; these are your drop lines. After tying the drop lines, add hooks and bail, or lures, to each line.
Third, you will need to weight your trotline. Use two or three of your drop lines on either side of the main line to add the weights. You can use large rocks as weights. For floats or bobbers, use an empty plastic jug. Tie your floats to the top of the same lines as the weights.
Cleaning and Cooking
For a rudimentary way to clean fish, scrape the scales off working from tail to head with the flat sharp edge of your knife. After you have removed the fish scales, turn the fish over so its belly is facing up and starting from the tail, cut a shallow slit through the fish’s middle to its head. Once open, pull out all the guts and then cook the fish over an open flame. Alternatively, you can throw the whole thing uncleaned onto the fire and cut it up after it is cooked.
Do you have a survival fishing method to share with us? Explain what it is in the comment section.