Fishing has been a popular method of acquiring protein as far back as time can tell. Because of this, there are many different ways to catch fish and plenty of species of fish for you to target.
In a SHTF scenario, you’ll care a lot less about what you catch and how and a lot more about how much you can catch. The focus of this guide is to provide everything from A to Z on how you can learn to fish for your survival, what gear you need, and how you can determine what spots will yield the best results.
Even if you know nothing about fishing at this point, you should learn enough in this guide to confidently hit the water and catch enough protein to see another day.
Why Choose Fishing?
Before we dive into the main content, why choose fishing? Why not use another method of gathering protein such as hunting or even gathering things like nuts and insects to acquire the nutrients you need?
A big question I get asked a lot is where does fishing come in the overall prep? Should I be worrying about shelter, equipment, fire, and water first? Yes, you should prioritize fishing towards the end of your “to-do’s,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Having a consistent and duplicatable way to acquire protein is the key. That’s why fishing is such a popular method for preppers. It’s a lot more predictable than hunting and it provides much better nourishment than eating bugs and foraging for nuts.
When you know what to do and you feel confident about it, you could catch enough fish to last a week in a matter of hours. This can also be done passively with the right strategies. I’ll be teaching you some ways to set it and forget it so you could work on other projects while you let the fishing happen in the meantime.
Keep in mind that even in an urban environment, there are ways for you to fish as well. You just have to know where to look and how to plan accordingly.
Best Survival Fishing Techniques
When you think of your average fisherman standing on the shore casting a line out and pulling it back, that’s what you imagine yourself doing. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case for most post-apocalyptic fishing scenarios. Most of you won’t have the proper gear for that and you should also factor in the pressure the fish might be feeling at that time.
Think about it. If the shit really does hit the fan, you’re not going to be the only person to think of fishing as their means of feeding your family. They’ll be tons of people on the water trying to feed their families as well. This will make it even harder to catch fish and you never know how hostile the environment will become as well. People will quickly become territorial over their fishing spots.
Getting a survival fishing pole is important but you also want to think outside the box and use some different methods in less obvious locations. Let’s talk about it.
A trotline is a great way to passively catch fish. It’s one of the methods that you can set up and let it run its course.
To set up a trotline, you’ll want to find a narrow stream or river with a depth of at least six inches. Signs of a great location are overhanging trees casting shadows on the water. These shadows make the fish feel safe and hidden even when they’re not.
Every prepper should have a paracord or some type of rope. You want to take the cord and tie the fishing line around it every few feet. Create equal space in between each line and then rig your fishing hooks to the end of the line. Make sure that the length of your fishing line is sufficient for the depth of the water. If you’re in a small stream, you’ll only want a few inches of fishing line hanging from the main cord.
Now you want to tie each side of the main cord to a tree on either side of the river. The goal here is to create a wall of hooks so as fish move their way up or down the stream, they’re tempted to strike the line. You’ll want to bait these hooks with whatever you can find. Worms, grubs, fish eggs, fish carcasses, or even artificial bait if you have it.
If you find yourself in a dire situation and you have absolutely no gear to work with, you can try noodling or hand fishing. This should be used as a last resort if you have no other options. This method will burn a lot of calories, take up a lot of your time, and it can be very frustrating.
Noodling involves standing in the water or right on the shore and fishing using nothing more than your hands and eyes. It requires intense focus and lightning fast reflexes. Most frequently you’ll target catfish and suckers using this strategy because they hide in logs and holes. You’ll want to block their exit from the hole, reach in with your bare hands, and pull it out by its mouth. Hold on tight because they will fight you and watch out for their barbels. Catfish have sharp spines that stick out near the front of their body and these can sting you.
If you’re considering using fishing as a primary way of gathering food when all hell breaks loose, having a decent sized net is a smart choice. Net fishing provides a variety of options and you can catch a number of fish at once if you’re lucky.
The best strategy here is to get yourself and another person to stretch out the net across a river or pond. Stretch it out as far as you can and simply walk while dragging the net through the water. Be sure that the net extends down to the lake bed so you stir everything up. This will cause any fish to flee their hideaway and many of them will get caught in the net if you’re persistent.
On the outside looking in, spearfishing might sound like a simple strategy but it’s much more challenging than you think. You’ll want to have a strong piece of wood, metal, or bone that is sharpened at the end. A big misconception is that most spears pierce through the fish, but that’s not always the case. In most scenarios, a spear is designed like a trident at the end with three sharp tips. The goal is to fire it at the fish as hard as you can and stun it. Once you’ve stunned the fish, you can grab it and take it to shore.
The best tip I can provide is to understand that firing right at the fish will never work. Light refraction creates ripples in the water which makes it look like the fish is further away from you than it actually is. Walk slowly, carefully, and strike below it.
There are a million different ways to create traps but a weir is one of the most popular because it offers the best longevity for the amount of work put in. You want something that you can build that will generate results for months or even years. That’s the goal here, we don’t want to have to physically go out and fish every day. You should be able to create a consistent food source that continues to provide without taking up hours and hours each day.
A fishing weir, as pictured above is a trap that leads fish into it but makes it hard for them to get out. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard for them. The reason I chose this type of trap is because it doesn’t require intricate weaving of leaves and twigs and it’s something you could set up in an afternoon and it will hopefully feed you for quite a while.
Where to Fish When SHTF
Alright, you’ve got some methods in your back pocket but where do you fish? How do you walk up to a pond or river and identify that as a good place to catch fish? You want to start thinking about this immediately. Figure out where you’ll go in proximity to where you are now. Are you planning a bug out? If so, you’ll want to develop a direct path to a couple bodies of water that may yield fish. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
Choosing Your Bug Out Location
First, choose a bug-out location based on your fishing. If this is going to be your main source of protein, you need to plan around it. Your fishing spot should:
- Be secluded and private
- Have plenty of structure around it (trees, old buildings, rocks)
- Have rivers and streams flowing in and out (these are important areas to fish)
- Have changes in composition
As you and your family are figuring everything out and deciding on a worst-case scenario, plan the bug-out location around your fishing. If you have to walk a mile to get to your fishing traps each day, you’re burning excess calories and making it hard on yourself.
If your fishing hole is one of the most popular fishing spots in your local area you can guarantee that there will be 50 other people there trying to replicate what you’re doing. You need to be strategic about this.
Once You’re At The Water
Now you’ve determined where you want to fish, what do you do once you’re there? Where EXACTLY do you fish on the lake or pond? There are a few indicators of a good spot.
- Ripples from bugs landing on the top of the water and fish coming to the surface.
- Weeds around the perimeter with small areas of water where fish can hide.
- Overhanging trees creating shady spots
- Stumps sticking out of the water
- Lily pads
Understanding Fish Behavior
You want to get inside the head of a fish to understand their habits and behaviors. One of the most heavily neglected areas of thinking in fishing is weather. The weather is so important and it plays a major impact on the way fish behave. When the temperature is extremely hot or cold, fish are lethargic but where they go varies dramatically based on the water temperature.
When it’s really hot, fish retreat to deeper water to find cooler temps. Most people generally assume fish always hang out in the shallows because that’s where they can hide. That’s not always true. You’re more likely to find larger fish in open, deep water when water temperatures are really high.
When the temperature is low from approximately 40-60 degrees the fish move into the shallow water because it’s warmer. Fish are inactive and their metabolism has slowed down so they aren’t feeding much.
Barometric pressure is another important factor that a lot of people don’t understand. While some of these things might seem like overkill, it’ll be these little details that make a difference when it really matters.
Fish bite best during clear periods and times of overcast leading up to a storm. These are the times when barometric pressure is at its highest. This means that the fish are active, energetic, and ready to strike something. If you’re anticipating weather like this, you can devote extra time to fishing that day in the hopes of catching enough fish to store for a while.
If you find that the weather is turning in the opposite direction such as heavy rain and consistent storms. You can then devote more time to other activities.
How to Cook Your Catch
The most critical point I can make here is to never leave anything to chance. Freshwater fish feed on bacteria and they’re loaded with it. You should never eat raw freshwater fish because it could make you extremely sick resulting in lost calories and body fluids. If you’re facing a life or death situation, this could lead to your demise.
As for preparation, you have two choices. You could cook the fish whole if you don’t have the knife skills or you could filet it and prepare it.
The video above provides great instruction on fileting a fish and should generally apply to most species. Keep in mind that some fish such as northern pike have a ton of bones and are much more difficult to filet. You could also attempt to cook them whole but you run the chance of consuming a lot of bones and hurting yourself.
If you’ve caught a large number of fish and don’t have a way of storing them, no worries. You’ll want to cut them up into small strips and hang them out in the sunlight. This will dry them out, preserving the fish for later consumption. You can also do this by hanging them over your fire and allowing the smoke to cure them.
We prep for a reason. We do it for our family and we do it because we don’t want to get caught with our pants down when someone calls on us to step up and push forward. That’s one of the main reasons why I choose fishing as my strategy for gathering food when SHTF. I know this method yields results and I know that I can provide food for my family in a time when food is scarce.
You need to have that confidence. Implement some of the methods discussed in this article, start practicing, and start gathering the gear you need to fish some of these strategies successfully.
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