Catch A Fish: Basic Survival Fishing

Lots of trout

Guest article by Bogan:

Much energy is expended on this blog and elsewhere in the preparedness community on food production, whether domestically raised, hunted or grown. Less so on fish, an excellent source of protein, which populates the planet’s water which comprises about 71% of the earth’s surface area.


Aside from the familiar arguments from some quarters that fish don’t taste good (while others claim it is delicious!) it is an undeniable source of protein. In fact some experts put fish as the single best protein source in the world. It’s not just that fish is a complete protein and has some amazing benefits, but the healthy fat in fish (eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid “Omega-3”) is something that you just won’t find in land-dwelling creatures.

Among the benefits of eating fish is improved insulin sensitivity. The increased insulin sensitivity means that you need less insulin to transport glucose and amino acids into your cells. Less insulin may mean less fat deposition.

Fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel should be a primary food protein. They have a great amino acid profile and confers health benefits—related to both the protein itself and the omega-3 fatty acids—that you just can’t find in other proteins.

But what about situations where you don’t have a choice of what your protein sources are, or are otherwise lacking for options? Like survival…..


Sources of information about catching fish are everywhere, and methods all have their proponents. For the purposes of this article I focus on hook and line methods, bypassing harpoons, traps, poisons, and dynamite sticks – all of which will do the job. However, of greater interest is something that can be light, portable and easily deployed.

Distilled into its most basic form fishing involves a hook and a line. All else is an elaboration on a theme.

The right combination of hook and line can be used to secure fish.


A rule of thumb is that a person can catch a small fish on a small hook, and a big fish on a big hook or a small hook, but you can’t catch a small fish on a big hook.

Small Hooks: With this in mind, the best place to start is with a small hook. Or rather a bunch of small hooks, as you may well want to be deploying multiple hooks at any given time. In my experience fishing around the world, in fresh and salt water “small” can mean really small; like size 8 or 10. If a person is only buying a packet of one size and color, I would recommend a light wire gold Aberdeen hook in size 10. However, assortment packs are available in big box stores and online. Why gold? Often fish can be coaxed into hitting a bald hook if it is in gold color! Sure helps to tip it with a piece of bait though.

Big hooks: They vary in size depending on species, and whether you are found in fresh and/or salt water, and can range from about size 2 through 16/0 and even bigger! Commonly, for a survival situation something in the size 1- 4/0 range will be used.

For more information about hooks:
Cabelas Fish Hook Buyers Guide


Line for small hooks can be 6-10 lb monofilament, and can be bought in 50-100 yard spools for less than a dollar at the big box stores. Select the “clear” or green color rather than hi-visibility or colored lines. Maxima green leader material comes in 30 yard spools is a little more expensive and would be an excellent choice here, not only for low visibility but also for abrasion resistance.

Maxima Fishing Line Leader

Line for big hooks, depending on application, can range from 20lb test and up through and including rope. For baiting wary fish (trout, small mackerel) go lighter, for the less wary (such as catfish on a trot line) even cordage works fine so long as it is made of some form of plastic (vs cotton).

A basic selection of hooks and line can fit into a container the size of an Altoids box.

Fishing rods and reels are nice, but in a survival situation may in fact be less productive than tying a series of baited hooks off onto tree limbs overhanging the water. And if you are on the move they weigh something…

If you are gadget oriented, you can increase your chances using spring set “yo-yo” reels available via mail order, or Speed Hooks such as are used by the military in survival kits.


The best bait is what you can find in the immediate vicinity of where you are fishing. Look under rocks, logs or in quiet pools, or even use insects such as grasshoppers or crickets (insects in fresh water at least) – if it is alive it will probably catch a fish.

Another maxim is you can catch a big fish with a little fish. So using this small/large approach you can use a small hook setup to catch a small fish, then hook the small fish onto a larger hook setup to catch a bigger fish. That’s why you should carry an assortment of hooks of various sizes: Large hooks for large fish and small hooks for small fish.

Lures can be effective, but one must work (manipulate) them to cause a fish to strike. This decreases your ability to scale your energies, because with lures you can only work one line at a time. That said, plastic lures work, especially if they resemble food (lots of lures look nothing like food, and cause fish to strike in reaction!) and bucktail jigs ranging from tiny to large will catch fish. In fresh water, crappie “marabou” jigs and “shad darts” are exceptionally productive, and in salt water bucktail jigs with cadmium plated hooks should be part of every fishing kit.

Bucktail jigs: freshwater

Bucktail jigs: saltwater


Knife: to cut bait and clean fish

Needle nose pliers: To remove hooks from fish

Towel:To hold fish while removing hooks or cleaning them

Balloons: The small ones you can get a bag full for a dollar – make great floats (strike indicators) and if the wind is right, they can transport the baited hook out into a fishy area.

Keep it simple…


How do you approach fishing in a survival situation?


  1. Great article. If I might add. Learn how to tie knots in monofilament line. Many of the regular knots don’t hold well. Consider set lines and trot lines. A set line has a single hook. Trot lines have multiple hooks. Others might find your line and steal your catch so consider staking it underwater. Typically they are tied to an overhanging tree branch. Regular hooks usually need to be set but smaller hooks are frequently swallowed, Hemostats are good for removing them. circle hooks tend to be self setting. Lastly, a jar of artificial bait is a good addition. the big box stores all have them.

  2. Anything that leaves a “grease/oil” slick behind it are great for catfish. Garlic Pam cooking spray has also worked well for me on spinner and buzz baits for early morning bass.
    Also, one should learn the different jig “rigs” (Carolina, Texas, etc.) for getting through reeds and weeds.
    Keep any eye out around your fishing hole and see what’s there for the fish to eat and set up you tackle accordingly.

  3. Oh I miss fishing, Having lived in Alaska and traveled all over I have fished for most kinds of fish. I even fished in high heels during my lunch hour from work.
    We still have all of our fishing equipment now all we need is water with fish, mostly sand fish out here!
    Bring a small scissors for cutting fishing line, saves your front teeth.

    1. @old lady: small nail clippers work well, or the old handy multi-tool, as mentioned above needle nosed pliers usually have a cutting area near the pivot point.

      1. As my dentist said when I told him, ANYTHING but your teeth- of course when you are in a hurry……

  4. Sport fishing and survival fishing are not mutually exclusive, but can be very different. Any hook is better than no hook, small treble hooks are my choice when rules don’t apply and not losing the fish is paramount. Think of minnows/shiners/shad as both bait or a possible meal in themselves. While probably not feasible for a bug out bag or get home bag, a minnow seine, cast net, or bait trap in your just in case stores will put protein on the table. When I was young, my father and others made and used fish baskets made with wire hoops and chicken wire three feet in diameter and 4-5 ft long with inward facing wire funnels. Baited with a wild rabbit disemboweled, overnight it would almost always filled to the brim with eating sized catfish.

    1. Hey there Dennis

      You brought up an excellent point. I use a couple homemade fish traps myself when I want a “mess” of catfish. Catfish is my favorite of all, salt or freshwater to eat. Anybody can utilize a fish trap, you don’t have to be a “skilled” fisherman. Granny and the young people can produce a lotta table fare.

      We roll fish in corn meal, pancake mix, flour, whatever, fry em in hot oil………..simple to fix, you can cook em on a forked stick or a rock with an open fire. It don’t get much better than that. I bet I’m not the only catfish fan here……..hahaha

      1. wood56gas,…… I was raised eating catfish, not the popular channel cat, but the old “mud cat” found in most stock ponds, transplanted by fish eating birds such as Herons. We would fry ’em up like you said, with corn meal and drizzle sorghum molasses over ’em as we ate. That’s a culinary delight I still practice, you should try it some day.

        1. Those “mud cats” were also called “chug heads” or “pollywogs” and seldom weighed more than one and a half to two pounds, most, less than that. We also ate a lot of “sun perch”, native fish, not the hybrids found stocked in ponds now-a-days, seldom as large as your hand. The fins fried up crisp and were tasty too.

        2. Dennis – Are they also called “Bullheads”? It’s been a long time since I’ve been fishing. There are plenty of lakes around me, but I was raised up as a fly fisherman catching trout, but not much of that action here in Oklahoma. I didn’t get into bait fishing much, although I spent several nights setting in a flat bottom boat wearing insulated coveralls waiting for a Bullhead (or hopefully a Channel Cat) to bite and trying to keep as close as I could to the Coleman lantern setting in the bottom of the boat. LOL! Six of us guys that worked for the power company would take three boats and go anchor out in the San Juan side of Navajo Lake for most of a Friday night when we could. It was great fun, until a local guy that we all knew drowned doing the same thing with another group at about the same fishing spot on a night we didn’t go. Hard to swim in insulated coveralls full of water. That kind of put a damper on the fun, and we eventually quit going.

          CD in Oklahoma

        3. CD in Oklahoma, as I recall, bullheads were similar but tended to grow bigger and were found in larger bodies of water than the small stock ponds we had close by. I believe we called those “iron jaws” for their abilty to bite down on your thumb with great pressure when you “lipped” them to remove the hook. Great memories. After years of government programs to help farmers stock their ponds with channel and blue catfish, I’m guessing these old native cats are about history.

    2. Those traps you describe are exactly how our family supplemented our diet when we were kids…lots of catfish and carp…the only way to get enough to really feed a family. My sister & I laugh about our somewhat unusual survival skill…we can still build those traps…we used to use barrel hoops and chicken wire.

  5. Bogan

    Very good article, well done.

    First of all I need to respond to;

    “Aside from the familiar arguments from some quarters that fish don’t taste good (while others claim it is delicious!)”

    For those that don’t like the taste of fish, learn how to cook. A ‘good’ experienced cook can even make a hunk of fish taste like a Beef Steak if needed, The right spices and knowing how to ‘properly’ cook is the key.
    Personally I LOVE Shushi, and all the ‘fixens’. BUT be very careful of the fish you eat raw; it can make ya very sick or kill ya, especially Fresh Water Fish. So if ya don’t know how to prepare Shushi than don’t.
    Mini Rant over.

    I absolutely agree on your thinking about hook size and line weight, I personally use 4# test fluorocarbon for 90% of my fishing needs. A 24” Rainbow is a fun catch in the fast water of the Animas.
    Although I will say that in the times of “need” aka SHTF, a small hunk of C-4 would be my choice of “Fishing Equipment”. Let’s face it, even on a good day fishing, catching enough fish to feed a group of 10 would be close to impossible, and with the entire state of New Mexico lined up trying for the same fish might be challenging at best.

    Setting trot lines is a good option as you mentioned, but again, at least around here, Fish would be on the Endangered List very fast.

    Plus in times of SHTF, one may need to know how to dry and store fish for days or weeks later. Thinking on long terms of survival, a day’s fishing will not last for a week if it cannot be ‘stored’.

  6. I think in a SHTF situation, fish and game will get taken out fairly quickly around major population centers. Still, it is good to prep to fish if you have to bug out, or you are in a wilderness survival situation.
    One thing I am looking at is fishing/trapping crustaceans (think crawdads, or ‘mud-bugs’). you can find them in most bodies of water around the country, they are high in fat and protein, and pretty much everyone else will have forgotten about them.

    1. Minerjim

      The Crawdad run is in full swing down here, little suckers are everywhere. The Coons and Skunks are going NUTS and the bottom feeders are happy.

      Even Blue is having fun….. RUNNING AWAY from em, big old pinchers are nada to mess with, he actually had one hanging from his tail for a bit… HAHAHAHA what a clown.

      Wish I could post a photo, some of these suckers are 6″+ long. We call em Mini-Lobsters. YUMMMMMM great eaten for sure.

      1. NRP,
        Yup! I had some Cajun fellows on a drill crew that introduced me to ‘mud-bugs’ years ago. Could not believe that we had ‘mini-lobsters’ growing right under our noses. Should be able to trap them better once they turn off the irrigation water in the canals, which is soon. Need to be on that quick. Like you said, the coons will go nuts once the water goes down.

    2. @ Minerjim.. love me some crawdads! You can also check the rivers for freshwater clams. Chewy and gritty, but it’s protein.

    3. During the 1930’s depression, my fathers family survived on shooting wild rabbits and fishing.
      Grandpop had a horse and cart, six sons and 4 daughters. My father was the youngest. He was issued with an 1890’s Winchester. – The hand me down gun.
      My uncle would say that pop issued them with 10 .22 bullets and expected 11 rabbits in return. The majority of lead was to be found and recycled.
      The boys all become crack shots and expert fishers. Putting food on the table adds an extra incentive to become proficient.
      Anything that moved was expected to be shot and made into saleable food. (apart from farm animals).
      When the paddocks were bogged down during the wet. The boat was bought out and all kids were expected to come up with a haul.
      The boys did the hunting and the girls did the skinning, cleaning and preparation for sale.
      The majority of the hunted or fished meat went for sale.
      I still have my fathers old cane fishing rods. The 1890’s Winchester went in one of Australia’s gun confiscation drives a few years ago.

      My mother told me that my dad’s family never went without money or were hungry during the depression. Her family were hungry. They lived on bread and dripping.

  7. I’ve fished since I was a little kid and after we had a boat, began to really hone my skills. We lived about an hour from the Chesapeake Bay back then and really got into crabbing, too.

    About 20 years ago, I began fly fishing. I’ve never looked back….. One year, we traveled to New York and I caught my first salmon (catch and release). Only woman on the river that day and that salmon was meant for me! :-) :-) I’ve tied a few of my own but have forced myself not to buy the equipment and supplies needed to start into doing this — it’s an expensive hobby, but the supplies with the threads, beads, bobbles, and feathers always seem to call my name. lol

    Loved fishing for salmon but admit to getting a real kick out of fishing bass. Dang, they’ve got spunk!! Once my hubby retires, we hope to spend gads of time on the water or at the river’s edge. He enjoys fishing, as well. Hopefully, we’ll get to enjoy sports fishing and not ‘survival’ fishing.

  8. NRP
    Are there any types of fish that you could raise in that 3 acre pond you mentioned? I know some that had had some luck on a small scale that raised trout – not sure of what they fell or how much water circulation was required. .

    1. yeash – got to have another covffe this morning – that should read “not sure what they fed”

    2. The lake you speak of is a spring feed lake, has Bass, large and small mouth, Blue Gills, and a couple of nasty old sucker fish. MANY Ducks and Geese use it, again wish I could post a photo, last night I bet there were 75-80 gees on it. they are here for the winter. what’s nice it’s only about 50 feet from the Animas…. Right over the cliff from me, 300′ that way —> and 200 feet down.

      1. NRP
        Food delivered to your door. To heck with the fish, more meat on those birds. The drop off that cliff is nothing for an experienced rapeller like yourself.

        1. hermit us

          Repel HAHAHA are you kidding??

          It’s an easy 5 minute walk.

          BUT, those geese are nasty as all get out, Only one way to cook em, Clean and Skin em, deep fry like you would a Turkey, remove the Oil and Bird and eat the Pot. :-)

          The Duck on the other hand… yummmm.

        2. NRP
          In the good old days or bird hunting, we would just take the breast meat – made cleaning and cooking much easier – flavor packs to taste.

  9. For survival how about yoyos, nets traps and jug or line fishing. Also a small phone generator to “call” up the fish. No it is not sportsmanlike, but this would be for survival

    1. hey Bro.James
      You obviously know more about survival fishing that I do because I do not know what the heck you are talking about. My areas have pike, pickerel, bass, trout, grayling, whitefish, perch, …. some caught by hook, some by net, and some while ice fishing. Some in lakes and some in streams.

      1. @ bro james… now that’s something I haven’t done in years! Juggin’ and night lines! Remember making soup can rigs?

    2. Bro. James

      Odd you should mention the method of “Calling the fish on the Phone” HAHAHA

      I still happen to have one of those old generators somewhere.. :-) :-)

      BTW, not so good in River fishing, but in a Lake…. Spot On.

      1. Are you guys talking about an electrical charge from a hand crank generator just like you can do for earth worms?

        1. hermit us


          Just don’t stick yar hand in the water when yar buddy is cranking on the thing.

          Do NOT ask me how I know.

        2. @ NRP.., ya ever try tannerite in shallow water? It’s great for seeing what’s hiding in the reeds!

  10. A stretched definition of fishing: a small 4 pronged, barbed, spear. Walking the banks of water (creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, etc..) spearing usually smaller fish in the shallows (works better at night with a shielded lantern/light, or so I have been told or read about). Also, bullfrog spearing, fried frog legs.
    If you are in a northern pike or pickerel area, add a steel leader to the fishing line, they have sharp rows of teeth and can saw off monofilament line.
    Finally, walk a high bank on weeded rivers with a small bore rifle, shoot what you see. Neighbor collected old WWI & II large bore rifles, would hear the blasting when he walked the high banks on the river across the road where I grew up.

      1. NRP,
        Not Frog Gigging, never have done that, but have seen it on the “Quack Empire” show, weighted triple hook? Did do snagging walleye in a ice fishing shack, walleye would be in the shad runs. We made steel spears: broom handle with a 1/4 inch steel 12 inch shaft embedded in the broom handle. The broom handle and steel rod insert were two hole drilled and nut/bolted through the broom handle. Braze the 4 prongs to a cross piece, then braze the cross piece to the broom handle steel, homemade spear for frogs. Had a second, bigger spear for spawning pike and suckers in the creek, best to do during spring when the water is high and the fish are spawning, except when you fell in. Also have bow hunted flooded fields for carp, missed most of them. The arrow had twine to pull in the fish, or most times not donate the arrow. “Way back when….”

  11. This article and the comments really point out the necessity of being familiar with the resources in your area. If you bug out to a different region, you might be challenged by trying the same fishing methods as where you left. Good to get some information from some of the older locals when you re-locate.

    1. hermit us

      Ahhhhhh C-4 works in any location I’v had the pleasure to fish. :-) :-)

      Disclaimer; do NOT do this at home :-( :-) :-(

      1. NRP
        That is not what I call sustainable fishing – I like going out early for my pan fried breakfast each day. A couple of fresh rainbow sets me up for the day. Save the C-4 for the scavenging hordes.

        1. I did that when camping – not where I live now unfortunately unless I drive a few miles to the river.

      2. NRP, your “explosives” comments remind me of the joke about the federal game warden who had tried for years to catch the Cajun poacher for illegal fishing. He had finally caught on camera the Cajun using a phone generator to take fish. He pulled his boat up alongside of the Cajun’s and told him that he finally had the goods on him. The Cajun calmly tossed a lit stick of dynamite into the game warden’s boat and when the game warden picked it up to throw it into the water the Cajun had his camera aimed at the warden and asked “are we gonna talk or go fishing?”

        1. Dennis

          I had forgotten that joke me papa told me that 400 years ago, still fits today… HAHAHA

  12. Bro. James,
    I have had a hand crank phone generator since I was a kid. I do not use it any more, it’s illegal here in Texas to fish with. But, when SHTF this is the way to go, sportsmanship is not important when your starving. Hand crank generators never seem to wear out or loose their magnetic field. After a few minutes you can have all the fish you need and no hooks in your fingers – safety you know. No bait or line needed. Also generators work well when interagating a SHTF thief to find out about what he is upto.

    1. Yep, just make sure for opsec to disconnect the ringer bells or everyone will want on the”party line”. Lol!!

  13. One of my favorite subjects. I do catch small fry on a large hook, they love me so much they hook themselves in the side, belly, and back saying, ” Take me Stardust, Take me!”

    I keep my best spots secret. My boss took a bunch of his friends fishing all day on my favorite lake and said there were no fish in that lake. I said “yeah, it’s all fished out”. Protect your fishing spot like it is your OSPEC. I was catching 80 fish in a half day there, but only could keep my limit of each species.

  14. One other method for fishing I have not seen mentioned is making a fish trap. Did this in survival school with the scouts as a kid. Works well in shallow creeks, you can drive quite a few minnows and brookies into them. Takes time to push sticks into the mud to make a trap, but it is very effective, and can be left in place and used for a number of days and does not take much skill. Best placed at the top end of a long run of water, below a natural dam where the fish can not go any higher. Remember to leave a few so they can replenish.

  15. Having a small survival fishing kit in your GHB and BOBs is a good idea. Recently I purchased a pen rod with lightweight reel. It only weighs a couple of ounces and collapses down to 6″ in size. I make my own survival fishing kits from excess tackle I have at home. Bank lines are great if your going to stay in an area for a few days. I want to be fairly mobile, hit a water spot, fish for about an hour or so and move on, if I’m traveling along a water course. I’ve been fishing since I was a kid, So I know my way around the water and likely fish holding spots. Free bait is all around. Just make sure you have a minimum of 10-20 hooks a full spool of line, and plenty of split shot of various sizes as sure as shootin your going to get snagged a few times and lose your rig. Even though I’m not keen on bottom feeders, a nice sized carp or channel cat will keep you in food for a few days. Of course I’d rather eat perch, trout, bass or panfish, but in a survival situation, a fish is a fish especially when your hungry.

  16. Sshhhhh! I told the wife that my current fishing pole wasn’t working and I needed a new one because “the old one was obviously defective”! I’m very glad she doesn’t hit this site as often as I do!

    Great article Bogan, appreciate the input!

    1. Rob,

      This is your wife, “sweetie”. I hit this site more than you think. We need to have a talk tomorrow. I’m so upset. I already hid all your fishing equipment. And those new guns you never told me about. Good luck finding those. Ha! You have some splain’in to do. I expect a lot of foot rubs will make me feel a tad bit better.

      Just kidding Rob. It’s me 11HE9. Just saw the opportunity to bust yours chops. Lol. BTW I don’t want a foot rub. Lol.

      Adapt and Overcome.

      1. Rob

        I’m thinking you re in deep watet without a fishing pole

        LOLOL, good shot 11HE9 😁😂🤣

      2. LMAO!!! 11HE9, I don’t know how you did it, but you sounded EXACTLY like my dear wife! Thanks for the gut-busting laugh this morning… great start to the day!

      3. 11HE9 (aka Robs Angry Wife),
        Hysterical! That was almost-shooting-my-water-out-of-my-nose funny!

  17. Good article which brings me to a question…
    I would like to restock my gravel pits that consist of LM bass, bullheads, and lots of small blue gill.
    My bro and i would catch pike but that pit has froze out a couple times since then.
    When would be a good time to restock and with what?
    One pit is spring fed. The other has a creek access.

      1. jon
        Yes i do have a few trees that have fallen in one. Lots of algae and such in both.

        1. Jon also i have looked up hatchers within 75-100 mole range.
          Mosly trout. Not sure how well they would do in a so called sstagnant’pond”??

        2. @ joe citizen… the pond with the creek access, if there is somewhat of a current you could do trout if it doesn’t freeze to deep. Otherwise I’d go with bluegill & crappie as their pretty hardy fish if you can find em. Spring fed, I’d say cats. Personally, I would try smallmouth if you can find them 😉

    1. If you have lots of small bluegills you should probably stock more bass.

  18. Good article. Love fishing of any kind. Before I ended up purchasing a boat, years ago I went to the our Department of Natural Resources and purchased topographical maps for all of the areas within 50 miles of my house. That was before modern GPS. My goal was to identify ponds off the beaten path that might not be heavily fished or even fished at all due to the fact that not many folks would know they were there. I was happy to find that many of these small/medium sized bodies of water were chock full of fat bass and other types of fish. Some of these places took some bushwhacking to get to and showed no evidence of human activity, but it was very often worth the time and effort. While my motivation for finding these places back then was for enjoyment, I’m glad that I know now where these hidden hotspots in my area are should I need them if a survival/SHTF situation occurs. And I’m still glad I have the paper topos even though I now have a GPS. They are cheap to obtain and worth having on hand.

    1. Gunnar, great point on the topo maps for water. Also, you can buy a book of lakes/ponds with topo info and survey info on the types of fish and water area the fish were surveyed at. Gave you a general idea where to start. I still have my old maps, a ton of fishing gear stored in the basement, just need new line. Fun time.

  19. My First Nation friends have told me that once you’ve caught one fish because the eye balls as bait will catch you a lot of fish.
    My DH was in Chile years ago & picked up an idea there. Find a niblets corn or similar sized can. Nail a 1″ square piece of wood across the use as a handle. Attach & wrap your line around the can. You can throw a line quite a distance with it. He has use that idea several times when he didn’t have a rod & reel & says it is quite effective. He always had one sitting in his store office to loan to dead beats who wanted more credit. He couldn’t seem to get too many takers even when they or their family were “starving”. Then he could send them out of his office without feeling too bad. Lake was right across the road from the store too.

  20. Greetings to all from the resident Asian Guy.

    First off, a great and informative article Bogan. It was well written and well thought out. Of all the comments I read, I must say that Bro James wrote about several things that are very effective and used by poachers to this day: Electricity to stun fish and using jugs on lines that are weighted and baited.

    If in a survival situation, I wouldn’t use explosives as I do not like to advertise my location. I have caught poachers that used both the jug-fishing and telephoning the fish from lakes and ponds. Both will work very well. I used a kayak or canoe to tend to the jugs out in a given area.

    Another poachers trick is to bait a remote cove with either canned cat food or maggots falling from a carcass hung over the water. ( shoot a skunk or possum and hang the carcass by the foot from an overhanging branch.) Within days, maggots will form and begin falling off the carcass. Fish gather beneath the maggot fall to get the rain of protein. I have done this several times as an experiment, it works really well though it is a bit grisly to set up the bait station.

    I still like using fishing rods and I have a collection of them which also do double duty as springs for use in snaring small animals. (see Tilong Bamboo traps on YouTube). Fishing rods made of fiberglass and graphite composite are cheap and very useful.

    Someone else mentioned to be versatile and to keep an open mind when going fishing or hunting. So true. Most good days hunting meant that I left home hoping to get my limit on quail or dove only to have a succession of pygmy bunnies hop out in front of me. Protein is protein. They all taste good. How many have set out at dawn in pursuit of one type of game and end up scoring big on another species that day?

    Lastly, the bullheads I caught tasted muddy. a coworker use to cut the meat into finger sized chunks and roll them in a mix of corn meal and chili peppers. The resulting fish was flavored hot and you could not taste the mud. It also encouraged the consumption of mass quantities of beer and Cole Slaw.

    I was taught to fish by a poacher as a child. That made me more effective in finding trotline and catching poachers as an adult when I worked as a ranger. Keep a journal and take the water temperature. You will begin to notice patterns in when the fish will begin to bite and become active. ( and when they slow down in the fall and winter.)

    1. I have found if you keep bottom feeders in a live bucket change the water every time it gets muddy for 24+ hours and feed them some cornmeal and garlic they clean up well and taste great.

      Now for suggestions on preparing Carp? Help?

      1. Fillet the Carp and skin it. You will notice a long strip of dark meat running down the middle of the fillet. This is the part that tastes bad. Cut it out and feed it to the pigs or use it as fertilizer.

        Carp were imported from China as a food fish and so are an invasive species.

        As a kid we had a series of lakes in Norfolk Virginia that the city dumped allgecide in expecting it spread from one lake to another. It didn’t and we had a fish kill in one of the lakes. they found a big carp. He weighed 80 pounds!

      2. NH Michael
        My dad’s recipe was to bury them in the garden come spring time he tilled them into the soil. Ease clean up and they wonderful addition to the plants he grew.

        1. Thanks for the replies! I have done the gardening treatment for carp and it does work well for corn. You have to bury deep to prevent raccoons and such from digging it up.

          As an aside I find chickens love a little chopped up fish and it’s great bait for other fish as well.

          Now I need a recipe for raccoon :-) as anything that eats from my garden is for my stew pot.

        2. NH Michael

          Now you have to know by now if ya ask, we’ll find an answer.

          Raccoon Stew
          1 (4 lb.) raccoon, cut into cubes
          2 or 3 onions, sliced
          2 to 3 c. canned tomatoes, chopped
          Salt & pepper
          Bay leaf
          Dash of Worcestershire sauce

          Brown the meat cubes slowly in a Dutch oven.
          There should be enough fat within the tissues that no additional oil is required.
          Add onions during the last of the browning process so they won’t become scorched.
          Reduce the heat, add enough tomatoes and liquid to cover the meat, season and cover.
          Simmer over low heat until almost completely tender.
          Add cubed vegetables of your choice and continue to simmer until vegetables are tender.
          Serve hot with biscuits.

          Lastly I find it advantages to toss the Stew into the trash and eat the Cast Iron Dutch Oven.
          But “up to you”.

  21. NH Michael,
    Re: cornmeal, we did this with live ocean clams for chowder. In a shallow tub container, place the clams in then add cornmeal to cover, leave in the refrigerator overnight. Rinse them off and process, toss any that are not live (touch the exposed end, if it doesn’t move, toss it). The clams process the cornmeal removing the grit, open the clam and remove the meat, chop to desired size and into the chowder pot. Never had fresh water clams, only ocean, so not sure of the fresh water taste.

    1. I failed to add this caution on clams; never, ever cook and eat a dead clam, A second way to check if a clam is dead, if you have a clam that has open shell, touch the inside, if the clam does not close up it’s dead, toss it.

      You can get shellfish poisoning from eating dead shellfish (in this case clams, other shellfish (mussels, oysters, etc…) can cause poisoning if eaten dead.

      As another caution, please read up on processing shellfish to prevent poisoning and what parts to eat and not eat; specifically live versus dead and how to store (shellfish have a very short storage time).

      1. @ Grey… keep an eye on the shoreline as well. Lots of other dead fish, shellfish and aquatic life could be a sign of poisoning like red tide or another situation were you don’t want to eat the seafood.

  22. To NH Michael:

    The Chinese cook a big carp by steaming it with green onions, soy sauce, ginger and some garlic. You can also add hoisin sauce as well. Check the Joy of Cooking first then go online at Cooks illustrated. Carp has no strong flavor of its own and tends to take on whatever flavor you add to the steamer. You can also use the flaked, steamed meat for fishcakes as well. ( labor intensive.)

    I use the bigger fish for the purpose of roasting or steaming (4 lbs or larger.). If they are smaller, I use those for the compost pile/ soil conditioner.

    Raccon – if cooked and prepared properly, my dog loves it.

    1. CaliRefugee, My grandfather, who raised my mother and her siblings through the depression, incorporated what many considered to be “trash fish” into their diet. They pressure cooked carp, drum, and buffalo fish, then flaked the meat off the many bones using a fork. The flaked meat was mixed with crumbled crackers, spices, pickles and onion, formed into patties and pan fried. Not that different in taste from salmon or mackerel cakes. I remember eating them as a child and they tasted great.

  23. My dad took me fishing when I was 5 yrs. old,and I have been fishing ever since.We use to make our own fishing rods from what ever long brush was available,and my grand dad made a sort of makeshift reel out of wood,that you could wrap the line on.For line guides,we made the loops out of bailing wire and used line to wrap the ends to hold them on the “rod”. I graduated to store bought stuff when I got older.and went on to fish in Bass tournaments for 5 years.Now that I’m older,I still fish a lot,for fun and for food.All in all, if I only have line and a few hooks, I still will catch all the fish I need.Remember,when all else fails,just put an old fashion worm on your hook,and you will most likely catch something.

  24. Oh! And speaking of raccoon stew, muskrat also makes good stew,My dad use to make it,and he loved it. I’ll eat it when I’m really hungry,and I mean I’ll have to be hungry.I imagine you’d probably make it with the same recipe as NRP’s, or just use your own favorite stew recipe.However, I wouldn’t throw it in the trash, as it is edible, and it will fill an empty stomach.

    1. @ BigBadCat….muskrat isn’t too bad if you pan fry it to cook most of its oils out. Serve with pan fried okra and onions to cover any lingering flavor. Like you said, it’s a meal.

  25. To Dennis and others cooking: “undesirable species” out there.

    ( my apologies to regulars on this site as I know I am preaching to the choir.)

    The very aspect of survival is the willingness to prepare and eat things that others will not touch or use. to include carp and other exotic species out there in North American lakes and streams. Fish cakes allow one to take several pounds of steamed, flaked fish meat, several eggs and cracker/bread crumbs or cornmeal and feed a larger group of people with no bones. I did it in my younger years when I was working on seasonal basis.

    The culture that tends to make use of many unusual fish or creatures out there for food are the Chinese. I must also tip my hat to the Southerners out there that taught me how to catch, cook and eat fish and wild game. The old poacher that taught me was from Alabama. Same would apply to the folks from Appalachia as well. Lessons from people that came from humble origins.

    Only a poacher would think to drag off the carcass of a roadkill skunk to use as a maggot factory in a secluded cove. but this trick worked and drew in lots of bluegill and crappie within a week.

    1. CaliRefugee

      Agreed on the Asian Culture, it’s not just the Chinese; I have sat on the dirt floor in Thailand many a time in a Temple Gathering and had absolutely wonderful meals knowing that ya DO NOT ask what it is. Although ya can always guess the Chocolate Covered Crickets dipped in Fish Sauce, mighty dang good actually.

      I believe the American People are simply spoiled on McDonalds drive through food and Pizza.

      Good luck with that after TSHTF, and JIT inventory has gone poof.

    2. @ CaliRefugee…. enough with the fish cakes! You got me really wanting some seafood udon right now, lol!!

  26. Good article and informative comments. Tempted to believe that besides those who prepare, those that mostly come through a collapse type of situation are they that have been raised to survive off of what’s there. The cultures whose life is lived day by day, by eating what’s there. If it swims, crawls, walks, or flies, it’s toast, so to speak 😯 With a few exceptions, of course. Don’t forget to preserve any extra fish for future use.

  27. Great article! I remember going fishing with grandma in Wisconsin with a cane pole and some line attached to it. light tackle and sinkers from lead wheel weights worked well. Drop lines work well in both fresh and salt water venues and can result in some good sized bounty.

  28. Talk about good fishin’, catchin’ northern pike, n, walleye from a canoe on Lake of the woods in Ontario! That’s some good fishin’ and eatin’ too 😊

  29. A note on equipment:

    I like using he Shakespeare “Ugly Stick” and I like using the Shimano open face reels. I use Dupont Stren fishing line in 4 lb test for ultralight tackle in the Sierras of California with Panther Martin Spinners.

    My “big game” rod is a 7 foot ugly stick with Shimano reel and 20 lb test and I tend to use #4 bronze hooks. I also use sliding sinkers and swivels on the heavy tackle because a long fight can really twist up the line.

    I will also use a “stinger hook” on the bait or lure in areas that experience heavy fishing pressure or in dealing with a bait-stealer or light biter. One 14 lb catfish was boated after a 30+ minute fight and the only thing holding him was the stinger hook that was almost straightened out that day. Lastly, get yourself a net rather than trying to hoist a fish out of the water completely. With big fish, this will bring more meat home.

    The Joy of Cooking does have a recipe for Thai Fish Cakes and it has more ingredients than my recipe. They use a food processor where I like to use Progresso Bread crumbs. We both use an egg to bind all the ingredients together. We both list garlic cloves, scallions, grated ginger, and we both recommend a vinegar based Cole slaw with the fish cakes. ( I like using Mirin and Ponzu sauce mixed into the shredded cabbage.) I am a bit too nervous to keep a bottle of fish sauce within my fridge at the present time. ( put plainly, the stuff reeks.)

    Just because it is a survival situation does not mean you should not enjoy your fresh-caught fish.

    1. CaliRefugee:
      I have a uglystick setup similar to yours,except my reel is different.You are spot on! What a great fish catching setup.You obviously have a little fishing experience.

  30. It’s a little late but here’s some info about tiger trout. They are a cross between brook trout and brown trout. It’s a hybrid like the mule and therefore infertile. It is also gender specific, a male brown must cross with a female brook trout. It does occur naturally in the wild but is very rare. Most tiger trout are bred in captivity, i.e. in hatcheries. The temperature rang of your pond will give you a hint about the best species. Brook trout require the coldest water; sustained temperatures above 70F will do them in, Rainbows can tolerate higher temps, browns the highest. This all relates to the specie’s requirement for oxygen – the colder the water the more oxygen it can carry.
    In terms of total meat production you might consider triploid rainbows. They are fish with an extra chromosome, sterile, and grow to large size quickly. The drawback to tigers and triploids is the fact that they must be produced under hatchery conditions most of which may be closed when TSHTF. Tigers require ‘artificial insemination’; milt and eggs are stripped from mature fish and mixed by hand. Triploids require that fertile eggs be subjected to a specific temperature regime during development. And this ain’t no ‘fish tale’. I’m telling you the truth.

  31. One thing I’m really suprised no one has mentioned is circle hooks and spider wire type fishing line..
    Circle hooks are the greatest thing invented for fishing unattended. They allow the fish to be caught without having to set the hook, the fish catch themselves. They are are less likely to snag on oysters or branches in the water. I have used them with great success in both fresh and saltwater.
    Spider wire type line is great in that you can have 30 lb. test at the same diameter as 6lb monofilament line. It is also much more abrasion resistant than mono. The downside to spider wire is that it does not stretch like mono and on soft mouth fish such as trout it’s easy to rip the hook out of the fishes mouth when setting the hook.
    I have caught many, many redfish, flounder, and shark on spider wire and circle hooks. Just bait it up, chunk it out, set it in the rod holder and drink beer until you see the rod bend then reel it in. Same setup can be used in freshwater for crappie, catfish, and other panfish.

  32. – Long ago went through the military SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) school. I can to this day vividly remember debating with myself over whether to eat three 3-4” minnows or try using them for bait. I had no metal hooks, would have killed for one, better yet ten of the things. I was using a small stick, sharpened on both ends, with a tediously carved groove around the middle to tie the string to that I was using (thread from my shirt sleeve) to fish with. Stomach won. I did catch some grasshoppers later, used some of them for bait without success. (Ate some of them, too) This bit of ground was used very heavily for primitive survival training. (Think about a severe local SHTF.) Very spooked fish. I now keep one of the Readyman cards in my billfold at all times. For a long while, I had several small #10 salmon egg hooks laid on a strip of masking tape and folded over, so I would never again be without decent hooks available in my wallet/on my person. I carry hooks as religiously as I do a knife.
    – Papa S.

  33. It needs to be mentioned that although it may seem like there’s a wealth of fish out there for the taking, the truth is that in most states fish populations are supported by state run fish hatcheries and if even a slightly larger number of people tried to rely on harvested fish as a primary food source those populations would be wiped out very quickly. The same can be said for wildlife populations.

  34. one method of cooking ya’ll seemed to forget is to gut your fish then wrap your small fish or carp or mudfish in a packing of mud and lay the ‘torpedo’ beside/in the fire/coals…in about 20-40 min that fish is cooked…crack the mud and remove the flesh of that fish…the skin and mudvein and scales sticking to the dried mud…the resultant meat is white, clean, and tasty…mix with anything else you have for a filling meal of ‘good’ meat. this method removes the bones, skin, scales, and ‘brown fat’ …also, as to ‘calling up fish’ we held the wires from the old phone crank unit away from the boat on poles that allowed the wires to be placed about 6-7 feet apart in the water…much more fish came up to be picked up….I grew up in the country and had many uncles and friends that never considered ‘game wardens’…sometimes the old ways are still best to furnish food for family eatin.

Comments are closed.