If you want to prepare effectively for survival, fishing is an important skill to master for many different reasons. There are plenty of ways that fishing can help you survive, whether it’s in a short-term emergency or during a long term event. Learning how to fish and practicing it as often as possible will prepare you if something unexpected ever happens.
What are the survival benefits of fishing?
Eating fresh fish is a great way for humans to get many essential nutrients like protein, fat, and vitamins, and these can be hard to come by in emergencies. Just by catching two or three decent sized fish, you may be able to get several days worth of healthy meals, and this can even be enough to feed a whole family.
Also, when you find a lake or stream for fishing, an additional benefit is that this automatically provides you with access to clean drinking water, so long as there’s enough rainfall in your area (and assuming there is no surface contamination).
And finally, if you know how to fish, it can be done with very little effort, as you can set up fishing lines that catch fish for you while you’re busy doing something else. So if you compare the benefits to the efforts involved in fishing, it makes a lot of sense to add fishing to your arsenal of survival techniques.
Catching fish for survival
The following methods are easiest to learn if you have at least some fishing experience. So in case you’ve never fished before, try to learn some basic fishing techniques (check this website for more details), and familiarize yourself with the biology of the most common fish species in your area.
But if you do already have some fishing experience, keep in mind that In a survival situation, you should approach fishing a little differently than regular sport fishing. While you can definitely use a rod and reel, it’s usually more efficient if your chosen method does not require you to monitor it actively. This kind of fishing involves setting up a line with baited hooks, and coming back later to reel in the fish that have hooked themselves.
And if you’re catching fish for survival, it also helps if you have ways to keep the fish alive for several days before you eat them, as you can make use of a big catch to bridge more lean times. This is best done with a net of some sort, though you can also build a contained area at the lake shore.
An essential part of prepping for survival is putting together a survival kit (for more details read our article on the top survival tips for beginners), and if you want to use fishing for survival, then it’s important to add some basic fishing tackle to your kit. The most important items to add are: fishing line, hooks, and sinkers.
Setting up multiple hand lines
If you have access to fishing line and hooks, you don’t need to use a fishing rod and reel to catch fish. Instead set up multiple fishing lines, each with a weight or sinker at the end, and several hooks above the weight that are baited with small fish, leeches, or worms (or anything else you can think of that the fish like to eat). Throw out each of the lines into the river or lake, and tie the other end of the line to a log. Then leave your lines there for hours (or even overnight), and come back later to pull them back in. If there are big fish around, it’s best to do this with a heavy line.
This is a great method to catch fish like catfish, but if you’re using small fish as bait, you can also use it to catch trout, bass and walleye that way.
Fishing with a spear
If you don’t have access to fishing line, you can make a spear out of wood or metal, by sharpening the end, and tying a thin rope to the other end. Ideally you want to make a barb on the pointed end, so the spear gets lodged inside the body of a fish, enabling you to pull it out. It’s also good to do this with a trident that has narrowly spaced prongs.
The hardest part of using this technique is learning how to compensate for light refraction on the water surface. In order to do this, try to aim slightly below the fish. If you do this for a while, you’ll know exactly where to aim in order to hit the fish precisely. In some cases you’ll just end up stunning the fish, and it’s good to have a landing net around so you can scoop it up.
Using a fish trap
A fish trap is much easier to build than most people think. All you need is a container (usually a basket, but you can also use a plastic bottle), and a funnel that serves as an entrance to the container. Make sure the entrance is big enough to accommodate the fish you’re trying to catch, and add some bait to the container to entice them to swim in. Fish will be able to swim through the funnel into the trap, but not out anymore.
Using this kind of trap is often a good way to catch small fish, like minnows or chubbs, which you can then use as bait to catch the bigger fish.
Using gorge hooks
If you don’t have access to regular fishing hooks, you can use gorge hooks instead. A gorge hook is simply a small straight piece of wood, bone or metal with sharpened ends, that you tie to your fishing line in the center. When a fish swallows it, it tends to lodge in the throat of the fish, which you can use to pull it in with your line. It’s very easy to make your own gorge hooks.
Using a trotline
A trotline is a thick rope or cord that you can use to span across a stream or river, each end tied to a tree or log. Tie smaller pieces of fishing line evenly spaced along the trotline, each with a baited hook at the end. This allows you to set up multiple lines crossing the whole width of the river, which increases your chances of catching fish. And the best part is that you can leave a trotline for hours before you check back for fish that have hooked themselves.
Fishing can be a valuable skill in an emergency. You might not think of fishing when looking for food or water, but if you know how to fish, that can help to provide nourishment and sustenance during difficult times.
In order to survive effectively during an emergency scenario like natural disasters, where food supplies have been compromised and fresh water supplies are hard to get, having some fish catching skills can be invaluable. That’s why an assortment of basic fishing items should always be part of your survival kit.
If you’re planning to fish for survival in the swamp, also check our guide on how to survive in the swamp.