Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Food and water. Those are the two things we all think about when it comes to surviving when the SHTF. Water is plentiful so why not use it to get your food as well? Fishing is one of the most sustainable ways to feed yourself when you can’t simply go to the grocery store and pick something up.
In this crash course, I’m breaking down ways to catch fish without a rod, how to track the fish down, and a few expert tips to help you plan ahead.
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Best Survival Fishing Techniques
Catching fish isn’t that hard when you’ve got a survival fishing pole and reel, but what do you do if you have nothing? If all hell broke loose and you had no choice but to fish for your food, what would you do? Would you have any idea how to do it? Most people would likely say no, but this section will help you learn the basic primitive fishing techniques for survival.
Spearfishing has been around for ages and it’s grown into not only a popular sport but a great tool in the arsenal of preppers all over the country. It’s a great way to catch fish without requiring a large number of tools that will weigh you down and make it more difficult to travel.
You’ve got two choices here. You can plan to make your own spear when SHTF or you can prep your spear now and plan to take it when you bug out.
The most important piece of every spear is the rubber sling mechanism used to release the spear and stun the fish. Most people think that a spear is simply a sharp stick and that’s not the case.
Another misconception is that the spear impales the fish, but that’s not always the case either. A spear should be designed with three sharp prongs at the top and the purpose of the spear is to simply stun the fish, not kill it. This is called a pole spear.
If you’re planning on prepping a spear beforehand, go with a Hawaiian Sling. These come with a mechanism that automatically releases the spear when you spot a fish you want to stun. I would personally recommend bringing one of these with you because they don’t take up a lot of space and they make fishing much easier.
Hand Fishing (Noodling)
This might be the most difficult method of survival fishing but it’s the one you can always count on. Noodling involves treading water and remaining as still as possible for as long as possible while waiting for fish to become comfortable around you. This could happen in a matter of minutes or it could take as long as an hour or two.
Keep your eyes fixed on the water and your hands close to the surface. Once you spot a fish that you think you can catch, you’ll throw your hand into the water and attempt to pluck it out.
Using a net is obviously one of the best ways to catch a larger number of fish in a short amount of time. It’s also a great way to catch bait that you can use to rig a makeshift fishing rod or a regular spinning rod if you have one.
You’ve got three different kinds of nets and it helps to understand all of them.
Gill nets are the simplest but they require the most effort and you’ll expend quite a bit of energy using them. But, they are a quick method to catch fish because you could go from nothing to enough fish to feed a family of four in a matter of minutes.
When you’ve been without food for days, this sounds like a great strategy. All you need to do is throw the net into the water and use the buoys to pull it back in. You’ll want to identify an ideal fishing location before doing this and be sure that the net is coarse enough to capture even the smallest of fish.
Drift nets are another method. These are illegal so I wouldn’t recommend trying to practice this but in a life or death scenario, it’ll work like a charm. Drift nets get pinned between two stakes that you’ll drive into the ground in a river or stream. The net will catch the fish that flow downstream and hopefully prevent them from swimming back up. The best part about this method is that it’s sustainable and requires little to no effort once you’ve set it up.
The last method is using a standard dip net which is a net with a handle that you’d see anyone have in their fishing boat. It’ll require you to watch the water, find the fish, and then use the net to catch them. I wouldn’t recommend this strategy unless you have no other choice.
Trotlines are a unique method where you run a line through the water with bait on it. You would preferably do this in a moving body of water like a river or stream. The line will have multiple hooks dangling from it with bait. As the fish move through the water, they’ll see the bait, and hopefully strike it.
The most important thing to remember about this is to check it regularly and make sure that everything is secure so you don’t lose your catch.
I saved my favorite method for last. If you really find yourself in a scenario where you have absolutely no resources to work with, you can set up a weir and catch fish for months if not years if you have to.
For this to work, you need to make a double heart shape like the one pictured below. You’ll make it with rocks and design it so once the fish get stuck in the weir, they can’t get out. The best place to do this is in a moving stream or river because you’ll want to keep the stream moving in the direction opposite of the exit to the weir.
Just be sure to adjust accordingly for rising and lowering water levels. You’ll need to build it high enough for when the water level increases but not too high that it becomes unsteady.
One thing that you’ll want to keep in mind is that practice makes perfect. All of these methods mean nothing if you never go out to the water and attempt to practice them. Teach your children, teach your spouse, and teach whoever else you’ll be bugging out with. Everyone should know how to catch fish without a rod and reel.
Preparing and Planning
Now that you understand some of the ways to catch fish, let’s talk about how you can prepare. Preparation and planning are the keys to surviving whether it be an EMP, natural disaster, or nuclear holocaust. Preparing for each scenario will make survival that much easier.
Pairing Your Bug Out with Your Fishing Hole
The planning stage starts all the way back when you start figuring out where you’ll bug out to when the SHTF. If you live in a remote area and have a lot of land, you’re lucky. If you’re like most people, you’re either in a suburb or some type of urban environment that will require you to leave your current location in exchange for something more remote.
When you’re deciding on this location, you should keep fishing-related factors in mind. Look for things like pooling water, streams, rivers, and eddies along those rivers. These are areas where fish hide and they’re the best locations to deploy some of the fishing strategies mentioned above.
Understanding How to Catch Fish
Knowing how fish behave, when they feed, and how they feed will also help you succeed. Keep in mind that fish are most active in the early morning and at dusk. If you plan to catch them with spearfishing or even with a rod and reel, you’ll want to fish at the times when they’re out feeding. They’ll be more aggressive and more likely to come closer to you and your bait during that time.
You’ll also want to factor in seasonal effect. If you live in a place that gets all four seasons, you should make sure to have backup food acquisition strategies because you’ll have a much harder time fishing when the water gets cold.
Fishing with the best lures is the go-to strategy for many, but eventually you’ll run out of lures in your tackle box so you’ll have to resort to live bait. You can go around and forage for bait or try to catch it yourself using some of the netting strategies outlined above.
I also recommend flipping over rocks near rivers and streams. This is a great way to find crawfish, grubs, and larvae which will attract fish. You can use all of these to bait your trotline which will easily result in a faster catch.
Preparing Your Catch
Once you’ve caught something, you need to at least have a general idea of how to prepare it. We’re not talking about Gordan Ramsay level cooking here, but you need to cook it so no one gets sick and you get the most out of every fish you catch. With many freshwater fish, they’re full of bones so it’s very easy to waste a lot of product because you’re afraid of consuming the bones.
Another important thing to remember is that you need to keep the fish alive until you’re ready to cook it.
Start by finding the hole under the tailfin and cut horizontally towards the head. Doing this on both sides will yield two filets and if you do it carefully enough, there shouldn’t be much meat left on the bones. This is something that takes a lot of practice, so don’t wait for chaos in the streets before you start learning how to properly filet a fish.
Understanding how to fish when the SHTF could be the difference between life and death. While everyone is foraging for food amongst the urban chaos, you’ll be able to escape and develop a sustainable way to feed yourself and your family.
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