SURVIVAL FISHING

You don’t ever have to be hungry if you’re near a permanent body of salt or fresh water, you can always eat by fishing.  Fish are native to all permanent bodies of water, and nearly all species are edible. That’s a truism almost everywhere on the planet, because an aquatic environment is an ecosystem in itself, with numerous species of fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, crustaceans, and mollusks, nearly all of them edible. The only trick is to catch them. Most of the techniques described here will also work great with slight modifications on small animals and birds.

 

Fishing is an activity that can be enjoyed by women and children and requires only a little preparation. You need to determine which bodies of water in your area have populations of fish and what types they are. This will help you determine the best ways to catch them, such as particular baits to use and times of day best suited for fishing. The good news, though, is getting outfitted with basic fishing tackle is a rather inexpensive proposition. For example, less than ten dollars will buy over fifty new hooks, about forty split-shot sinkers, and a couple spools of line. If need be, you could attach the line to a tree branch over the water and be quickly fishing with just those minimum supplies.

Hand Fishing

This method does not require any preparation or fishing tackle. You just ball up your fist underwater and stick out your wiggling thumb as a lure to get most fish to strike it — then you grab them by the lower jaw and pull them from the water. Note: this method is NOT RECOMMENDED for use in salt water because of sharks, barracudas and other sharp toothed predators. Here are some pictures and a video demonstration.

Watch the video closely and you can see the bass come in to strike from the upper right corner…….

Deep water method ….

Another style of grab fishing can be done day or night. Lay your open hand, flat and palm-up, against the stream bottom, then slide it into likely hiding spots—under logs, undercut streambanks—move slowly and smoothly and you’ll seldom disturb sheltering fish. When you feel a fish’s belly against your palm, close your hand hard around its body, driving your fingertips into its flesh. Don’t try to hold a slippery, flopping fish, but immediately arc your hand toward the bank, tossing your catch far enough inland so that it can’t flop back into the water.

K9 method — catches bigger fish…..

Hand lining

A lot of large fish have come to the dinner table through this method, and it should not be discounted as an essential survival technique. Everything you need fits into, and can be carried safely, in a plastic pill bottle, slipped into a jacket pocket. A tightly capped pill-type plastic bottle can serve as a complete fishing kit, containing several yards of coiled fishing line, several hooks, and split-shot sinkers. All you will need to do is pull out the fishing line – bait the hook – and toss it into the water. Remember to hold the end of the line — or better yet — tie it to a tree.

Making a Fishing Pole

Pole fishing has been practiced for a very long time, long before the invention of reels, monofilament line, and fiberglass rods. The advantages of a pole are that it allows an angler to reach out from a bank, without exposing himself or casting a shadow onto wary fish below. A pole enhances the feel of when a fish takes the bait, allowing you to set the hook quicker and more surely, because it extends the distance that you can pull. A pole also acts like a spring, bending as a hooked fish pulls against it, but not allowing it the solid yank that it needs to break your fishing line. Lastly, a pole’s butt end can be sunk into the ground, so that it stands upright, and twitches visibly when a fish bites.

Most simple, expedient, and maybe even most valuable, because it can be made virtually anywhere in minutes, is the sapling-type. Find a long, relatively straight sapling, found growing along the banks of every river or body of water where fish live. The pole need not be large in diameter, about three-quarters of an inch in diameter at the base, tapering to about a quarter-inch at the opposite end. A pole this size will hold up against fish up to 8 inches long, making it ideal for pan fishing. For bigger fish, you can increase the diameter and, therefore, strength of the pole.

Tie a length of fishing line around the narrow end of the pole, about an inch inward. Less than 10 feet of line is usually enough, but you might want a longer line if you’re float (bobber) fishing, or if you’d like to “cast”—throw—the hook end farther out into deeper water.

Fishing Line

A survival fisherman uses fishing line that will not break, because the joy isn’t in the battle, it’s in the eating. Do not use a fishing line rated for less than 10 pounds. Even 20 pounds isn’t too much this line can also serve as snare line, and even for heavy-duty sewing repairs.

Fishing Hooks

An assortment of inexpensive hooks from a department store will serve you well. Carrying fishing hooks can be a dangerous proposition. If one penetrates deep into your skin past its barb, the easiest, least painful method of extricating it is to push it all the way in and curve back out through the skin and then clip the hook shank in two with a wire-cutter (multi-tool), and pull it free—do not ever try to pull it out backward (the way it went in), against its barb, as this will only make a larger more painful wound.

Always try to carry hooks in a bottle, to keep safe. Barring that, fold the hook and barb portion of each fishhook between a short length of tape. Pulling a hook out of the tape for use is as simple as gripping tape between thumb and forefinger of one hand, and a hook’s shank between thumb and forefinger of the opposite hand, then pulling them apart.

Making Fishing Hooks

Fishhooks have been around for a long time, long before manufactured steel types have been sold in bait shops. Fish are relatively dumb animals, and, like a child, if it looks enticing enough, they’ll try to eat it. A fish hook exploits that weakness to embed a sharp, barbed spike into prey’s mouth, enabling an angler to then pull it from the water.

The simplest and oldest style is the straight hook (which isn’t a hook at all), a length of bone, wood, hard plastic, or metal that has been sharpened to a point at either end, preferably with a barb or two notched into its length, to keep it embedded in flesh. A fishing line is tied to the sharpened section, slightly off-center to help ensure that it will pivot and up-end in a fish’s gullet when the line is pulled. The bait, a worm, grasshopper, fish scraps, strip of meat is slid over one pointed end and the lowest portion of the fish line to make it easier to swallow. When baited the attached fishing line lays flat along one side like the letter “I” — after the fish swallows the bait and pulls against the line – the points will catch on the sides of the throat and turn it to resemble the letter “T” (see picture). It is now too wide to come back out the throat and your fish is “hooked”.   

Alternatively, it’s fairly simple to manufacture conventional-style fishing hooks and lures from nails, stiff wire, or—better—steel staples. For example, staples with a “crown” width of 1⁄2 inch can be fashioned, using needle-nose pliers (or a multi-tool), and a small mill file—or any abrasive surface—into a hook capable of catching fish up to 2 pounds, even more.

Fishing Bait

The best bait is whatever a fish will take into its mouth, and the best bait is the one that works at any given time. It’s no more complex than that. Fish might be wary, and well-endowed with keen senses, but they are not smart, by any means.

A few fish will attack a naked hook, but most need enticement. Earthworms dug from damp shorelines, or from under wet leaves, are traditional. Grasshoppers, crickets, bees, and most other insects work as bait, too. Most caterpillars, millipedes, beetles — anything with a natural bitter taste, or a chemical defense, do not work well as bait.

Revolting to some, larvae, like this June Beetle grub, are highly nutritious and make good bait.

Freshwater clams are found close to the shoreline, and can be pried open, then cut into pieces most species of fish find irresistible.  And, after the first fish is caught, even if it’s too small to constitute a meal itself, it can be cut into chunks, and used as bait to catch larger fish.

Some pretty impressive fish are caught on a raisin. Likewise, pieces of sausage have proved to be good bait for even trophy-class pike), and Gummy Bears, Twizzlers, and other hook-able soft candies also catch fish.

Some very nice catches are made using nothing more than a few inches of red, orange, or yellow yarn tied to a hook and floated on the current. Colored closed-cell foam earplugs threaded onto long-shank hooks have caught surface-feeding bass and trout. Bottom-feeding species, like catfish and suckers (and turtles), have been caught for generations by a few inches of shoelace soaked in bacon grease. Other natural baits that have proved effective include discarded feathers, fur—or your own hair—tied onto a hook to form a fly, and at least one large-mouthed bass has gone for a dandelion floated on the water.

Making a Bobber

A bobber or float holds your fishing line vertically from a point some distance from shore, instead of at an angle. A bobber also can hold your hook at whatever distance above the bottom and below the surface that you desire; above potential snags, and in plain view of any fish that swims near. A bobber is so easy to make that you may never buy one again. Probably the simplest homemade version is a cork stopper from a wine bottle or a plastic pill bottle with a watertight top. The container itself is ideal for making a self-contained fishing kit, complete with hooks, sinkers, and a coil of fishing line. A heavy rubber band (cut from a section of bicycle inner tube—very tough) wrapped around the bottle and the line enables it to be slid along the line to adjust the desired fishing depth.

Pill-bottle types tend to lay on the water on their sides. When a fish strikes, it pulls the bottle onto one end, then underwater. A stick type bobber, depending on its age (dryness), its length, and the point where fishing line is attached, may lay flat upon the water, or float vertically; either way, its crazy dancing when a fish takes the hook below will be obvious.

Spearfishing

A working spearhead can be whittled from the crotch of a green sapling that naturally branches in two, or especially three, directions, but be sure that the tines are stout enough to pierce and hold a fighting fish pinned to the bottom until it stops struggling. Whittle one or two barbs (backward-facing notches) into the length of each tine, near its point, then harden the green wood by lightly charring it over a fire.

Better is the steel four-tine frog spearhead found at department stores. The head is easily friction-fitted to a shaft that can be cut on the spot from a straight sapling, and it will suffice to take fish more than a foot long, yet is small enough to be effective on smaller fish, even crayfish, snakes, and rabbits hiding in their burrows. Most stores sell 3- or 4-tine frog spearheads (called “gigs”), for under $4, sans handle shafts. Larger fishing spearheads retail for about $8. A frog gig can take larger fish, and one of these has been a permanent component of my own back country pack for almost four decades. For safety’s sake, when not in use the spearhead’s sharply pointed tines are embedded in a strip of soft wood (usually a section of pine branch),  and held there by an inner-tube rubber band.

“Chumming” the water by tossing in small pieces of clams or the innards of previously caught fish, even left-over pasta or rice or beans from your own meals, helps to ensure that hungry fish passing by will stop and stay near you.

Trigger Line

The trigger line is sometimes the most effective method of harvesting fish. Essentially a cross between spring snare and fishing pole, a trigger line automatically sets its hook in a fish’s mouth when it grabs the bait. Once hooked, the fish remains at the end of the line, alive, but securely caught, until retrieved. The advantage is that trigger lines will catch and hold fish while you sleep, helping to conserve energy and time that might be better spent doing other things.

The working principles of a trigger line are simple enough for a child to understand, see pictures below. Required materials for a single trigger line consist of 1 fishhook, 1 or 2 split-shot sinkers, 6–8 feet of at least 10-20 pound test monofilament fishing line, a springy green sapling, and a stout stake chopped from dead wood. Since more sets usually equals more fish, the fishing kit that resides permanently in my own back pack contains a 50-yard spool of fishing line, 2 dozen assorted sinkers, and 100 assorted fishhooks safely contained inside a metal cigar tube.

Bait the hook, toss it into the water, then bend the pole downward and wedge it gently into the stake’s notch. There it will remain bent over until a fish tugs against the baited hook, pulling the pole from its restraining notch and allowing it to spring forcefully against the fish. The force of its release sets the fishhook’s barb deep into the fish’s mouth, and in nearly every case the fish will remain there, securely tethered to the shore, until retrieved by you.

Tips for making the trigger line work more efficiently include knowing what types of fish are likely to be encountered, and then setting the trap accordingly. Small trout hooks are necessary for catching the smaller fish species that are likely to be most available, like brook trout, creek chubs, and sunfish.

Likewise, the notched pole should be under enough tension to securely set the hook when it springs free. As with all spring-type traps, this is the tricky part. Sharp, flat-sided notches make for a smooth release, and a little gentle knife shaving work can make a custom near-perfect fit between restrained fishing pole and anchoring stake notch.

Here is a video that shows another type of trigger line that uses a heavy rock weight falling to pull the hooked fish from the water. Watch this video a couple of times to learn how to make it. This system also works great on dry land to catch small animals or birds if you replace the hook with a snare loop and place the bait in the center.

Natural live bait is the best fishing bait and is always available where there are fish. Moist logs along shorelines and embedded in wet humus can be rolled over to reveal earthworms, or they can be dug from the wet ground at water’s edge. Grasshoppers and crickets work well as bait, and if you are setting the land snare use cut-up meat or fruit scraps.

One of the best all-around fishing baits is raisins.  A few years ago we discovered that an ordinary raisin on a fishhook was almost irresistible to brook trout, and since then we have used raisins to catch most species of freshwater fish. Perhaps it has something to do with a high sugar content, but small fish that refuse to bite on other baits seem inordinately attracted to raisins. Maybe prunes, figs or other dried fruit would work on larger fish – give it a try – if you don’t eat the fruit first……

Preparing fish to eat is simple — use your knife to scrape off the scales starting at the tail and scraping towards the head. Fish that don’t have scales like catfish or eels can be skinned.  Then carefully cut open the center of the thin belly muscle from tail to head without going too deep and pull out the internal organs. Save these to use later as bait.  Push a stick in through the fish’s mouth and place it over hot fire coals (not the roaring flames) – turning often to cook both sides. If you have a large fish you can cut it into smaller pieces or wedge open its belly cavity with small sticks so that the cooking heat can penetrate evenly inside. You can also boil the fish in water to make soup or with wild vegetables to make a stew.  Cattail plants growing in the water have an edible large white starchy root – almost like potato.  The fish is cooked when you can easily pull off chunks of meat with your fingers. Watch out for the small thin almost transparent bones — especially if feeding small children or dogs or cats.  These needle like bones can easily get stuck in a throat or stomach.    

               GOOD LUCK FISHING – AND HAPPY EATING !!

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