How to Fish for Survival
Let's just say you get stuck in the woods. Perhaps you've wandered off track and are completely lost, your car's broken down and you're miles from anywhere, or you've hiding out as you make your way to your bug-out location now that SHTF. First, you've built a shelter, and with a fire you've got somewhere warm to hunker down for the night, but how do you stop your belly from rumbling? When you're stuck for food fish are a great source of protein, and no matter what you're doing in the wild, in an emergency you're eventually going to have to eat. Today, we'll cover ways you can catch a feed of fish to keep you and your family fed, so you've got the energy and ability to make it out alive.
Your fishing kit It goes without saying that you should have a basic fishing kit in your bug out bag. An assortment of hooks, as well as line, swivels and some light weights take up very little space in your pack, but can be a lifesaver if you have to fish for your food. Personally, I'd recommend a small kit with about 40-50 hooks of varying size, and a couple of hundred yards of fishing line. This may seem like alot when you're packing, but we really do need these for the technique we will teach.
Improvising fishing gear So what happens if you lose your fishing kit, or you never packed one in the first place? It's not ideal, but you can definitely improvise your gear. Take a length of paracord and pull out the individual threads, these can make-do for fishing line, or if you're really stuck it's time to borrow a shoelace. For a hook, anything made of metal will work best, just bend and twist it into shape so that it's not easily bent back open. Paperclips, bobby-pins, and even the pull-tabs off an old can will work, or if none of these are available use your knife to fashion a hook from a piece of wood or bone, twigs with a large thorn on it also work well. It's definitely going to be harder using these improvised items, but it's still possible, so keep at it.
Natural sources of bait You can pack salmon eggs or any number of man-made lures, but I prefer to look to the natural surroundings to find the food the fish are used to eating. Turn over logs and rocks in search of worms, grubs, beetles and snails, even little craw dads and grasshoppers will usually work. Minnows and leeches I've also had success with, as you can put your hook through their tail and their swimming motion will draw attention from larger fish. No matter what though, try different baits on your hooks, to increase your chances of landing a fish.
Choosing where to fish Knowing the right places to set your lines is key, and an understanding of how to fish in your local area is going to be your best asset here. Talk to the people in your local tackle shop, and try your hand at fishing when you're on a hiking or a camping trip with your family. Nothing makes it easier than practice. Generally, fish like to hide, and they use cover like the shade of a lily pad, the grassy patches at the water's edge, or even submerged logs and branches to achieve this. As an angler, this causes a lot of lost gear, so be wary when you're setting your lines.
Using the surroundings I never take a pole with me when I am hiking, and in an emergency you probably have bigger concerns than sitting by the water's edge all afternoon trying to catch a fish. Look for branches that overhand the water, as these make for a perfect ‘makeshift’ fishing pole, because all you need to do is tie a length of line to it, down to your sinker, swivel and hook, and let it dangle into the water directly underneath. Just a few feet of water is usually enough.
Setting multiple lines This tactic can get you into serious trouble depending on the local fishing laws in your state, but if it's really an emergency, or the rule of law no longer applies, it's the easiest way to get a feed of fish to fill your belly. Never, ever do this unless it's a life or death situation, and always remove all of your lines once you leave an area. Setting multiple lines is simple enough, you just continue baiting and tying your hooks and line to different branches around the pond, which greatly increases the chance you'll catch a fish. 20 lines in the water will take you about an hour to setup, which is the same as having 20 poles in the water at once. These can also be left, and in many cases it can take a couple of hours to catch a fish, which means you can get on to collecting firewood or making more preparations in your camp. Personally I like to set my lines at different depths in the water, with some resting on the bottom while others float on the top without even a weight, so I'm covered no matter where the fish are feeding. If you're feeling lost or have never tied a fishing line before, it's relatively simple. Thread a running sinker onto a length of line, tie one end to a swivel and the other to the branch, and on a separate (shorter) piece of line tie the hook on, and tie the loose end to the swivel. YouTube has a number of videos that explain the process, or ask the team in your local fishing store for a demonstration. It may seem complicated but once you've tied this 20 times, you'll never forget!
Making a fish spear Once all of your lines are set, your shelter is built, you've got water boiling and your fire is roaring, it's time to take a more active role in your food gathering arsenal. A fish spear is easy to make, and especially if you've got the energy it can help you feel like you're actually doing something. Plus, now you can target all of the fish you saw at the water's edge who were refusing to bite your hooks. Find a relatively straight branch that's about 5-6 ft long, and split the end with two knife cuts in an X. Take two small twigs, about the length and width of your little finger, and push them down into the cuts, essentially pushing the four prongs outwards. Sharpen the tips of the spear with your knife, and you can even harden the wood by placing it in the fire. Once cooled, tie the prongs with a length of paracord so they stay open, and start your hunt for dinner. Remember that refraction will change the actual position of the fish in the water, so do some test shots to ensure your aim is true before you start missing fish. When you're stuck in the wilderness without food, fish provide an easily attainable source of protein, so long as you're able to catch them. Take a small fishing kit with you when you go camping or hiking and hone your skills before you really need it, and you'll be set when the SHTF.