Survival Fishing: Part One

A friend of mine requested that the blog has something about survival fishing.
The section below is adapted from a book chapter by myself that was never published.
Many survival guides will explain how to catch fish in greater detail that I have room for in today’s blog.
They usually include ways of fishing without using a line such as trapping, lassoing, tickling, spearing etc.
Some of these techniques are described in my book on Survival Weapons.
Today’s blog will manly cover the selection of items for an emergency fishing kit, but we will include some information on their use, since many people find the depth of knowledge given in fishing books confusing. Also most such books are written from a sporting perspective: when the alternative is going hungry. your methods may not be so elegant.
This blog is about survival fishing for food. Using some of these techniques when your survival does not depend on them may result in prosecution.

Where to look for fish:

  • Weirs ( a good place all year round)
  • Edge of reed beds
  • Eddies in streams and rivers or known deep pools
  • Overhangs of trees (Watch your line!)
These are usually the places fish congregate most, but use your eyes and look for them.
Some cunning may be required and creeping up to the water's edge may be necessary to see and catch fish. Keep low so as not to skyline yourself.

The Minimal Fishing Kit

  • At least 10 m of line (10 to 15lbs), possibly wrapped around a half of matchstick or held in a coil by a rubber band or wire tie.
  • Pack of hook to nylon size 12. Depending on how these are carried, the points may need to be taped over.
  • Small assortment of split shot (BB are probably the most useful size).
This minimal kit will all pack into a 35 mm photographic container or similar and the outside of the tube can have a length of brightly coloured tape wrapped around it.
There will probably also be room for a spinner, wire leader, swivels and a small cork/piece of foam/old ear plug to act as a float (cork of about ½ x ¼ x ¼" drilled with a 2 mm hole).

The kit in my personal emergency kit also includes:

  • A coil of braided fishing line, turquoise in colour, carried in a loose coil. The rings of the swivels carried should be large enough for the braided line to pass through. Likewise the rings of the loose hooks and lures are of sufficient size they can be fitted onto the snap links.
  • A small tube filled with BB split shot.
  • About 10 metres of 6 lb test monofilament line, wrapped around the tube of shot and secured with a piece of tape. In retrospect I'd have the monofilament in a looser coil.
  • Five wire traces, about 18-24" with a swivel at one end and a snap swivel at the other. Wire traces can be brought though mine were made from brass picture hanging wire, unbraided into four or three strand pieces. These can be used as snares but do not look as suspicious as custom-made snares.
  • Various hooks, most of them small (size 12), attached to monofilament with a swivel at the other end
  • Loose hooks.

The hooks and hooks on nylon fit in the little plastic wallets the hooks came in, and these fit in a plastic bag with the wire traces as well.

The knots attaching the hooks and swivels to the line are varnished over for added security.

When you are cold, wet and hungry is no time to be trying to tie fishing knots.

I prefer to sit in the warm comfort of my home and attach as many hooks as possible to a short length of line, tying a loop in the other end that can easily be slipped through a loop tied at the end of a longer line.

For some useful fishing knots see my free on-line book on knots.

A Mepp-type lure (above) with a little silver spoon that spins around and attracts fish is also in the kit. It also has a piece of red rubber covering the shank (most fish and sea birds have their vision biased towards the red end of the spectrum).
White and/or red “mackerel feathers” would make good additional lures, as do hooks with sections of tin can or tin foil added. A piece of white plastic cup will also make a good lure.
See a later blog for more on fishing lures.

Fishing Methods

Passive fishing is to set up a rig and leave it unattended although there's no reason why you can't sit and watch it if you like.
The most common way to do this is to set up what is termed a “nightline”.
As the name suggests, this can be left overnight and any catch collected in the morning, which is useful if you spend the daylight travelling to safety.
There's no reason why you can't rig up a nightline during the day, of course.
It's a good idea to check the line several times during the night, since some beasts such as frogs and turtles can break free if left long enough.
Attach one end of the line to the bank and the other to a weight, and attach leaders with baited hooks at intervals along the line.
Throw the weighted end into the water. This is easier if you use a forked stick since it prevents getting caught by your own hooks.
Drive a stick with a notched top between the water and the anchor point on the bank and run the line over the top. Movement of this stick will show something is hooked. Placing a pebble or chunk of mud on top of the stick provides further visual clues: if it has dropped off, you've caught something!
Alternately, run the line over the water between two points, like a washing line with the baits suspended at different depths.
An improvised bell (empty tin can) can be used to signal a catch.
Vary the baits and take note of which ones seem to be taken most often.
You can also hang lines from branches overhanging the water.

Active Fishing

Active fishing involves you holding onto the line and sometimes actively moving the bait or lure.
Such fishing prevents you from doing anything else, so is best considered if you have to remain in the same location, such as near a crash or a broken down vehicle, or are with a companion who can't travel.
Active fishing and other methods will be described in following blogs.