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Fishing Without Fishing Gear

When you are in a survival situation, knowing how to fish can get you a great source of high-energy protein quickly and easily. But let’s say you are in a survival situation and don’t have any fishing gear such as tackle, line, or hooks. What then?

Knowing a few basic techniques for catching fish without gear can be the difference between going hungry and staying alive.

Improvised Gear
It’s important in a survival situation to be resourceful enough to find and improvise traditional fishing gear from anything on your person or what you can scavenge.

Hooks. Hooks can be improvised from a wide range of different items, including nails, safety pins, soda can tabs, and a range of organic materials, such as bones, claws, antlers, shells, and even whittled sticks.

If you have a knife, you’re already ahead of the curve. You can quickly make a gorge hook by sharpening either end of a straight piece of material and notching the middle, where the line will be attached. The gorge hook is hidden inside a piece of soft bait, which, when swallowed, will catch the hook in the fish’s throat.

Lines. Improvised lines can likewise be made from a range of materials.

You can improvise fishing lines from strong threads in clothing and equipment, lengths of wire, and organic materials like braided grass or bark. The line does not have to be particularly long, but it should be strong – you don’t want to make a hook, find bait, and weave a line only to have it snap when you have a fish on the other end of it.

That can waste hours of time if you’re not careful, which is all too precious in a survival situation. Be sure to test the line by tying one end to a sapling and pulling firmly on it several times before you use it.

Lures. Lures can be made from any number of shiny or colorful materials. Feathers, jewelry, and pieces of aluminum all make excellent lures.

Even better is live bait; you can dig for earthworms almost anywhere ground is warm and fertile, and plenty of insects, arthropods and worms should be easily found along the banks of any pond or river.

Setting the Lines
While fishing is a relaxing pastime, in a survival situation you will want to set lines and accomplish other tasks while they do the work for you. You can either set lines by attaching them directly to stakes that you set in the riverbank or by tying them off on thin, springy branches that hang out over the center of the river or pond.

This allows you to set several lines at once and even leave them while you go about with other activities in the near vicinity.

You can create bobby or spring poles cut from saplings or willow branches. Drive the bobby poles deep into the riverbank and at an angle that allows the line and bait to drop down into the river. Make sure you cycle back to the riverbank to check on your bobby poles often.

Spear Fishing
Spear fishing can be another useful way to capture fish, especially if bait or materials for making a line are not readily available.

You can whittle a short branch into a basic spear. Be sure to make the end of the spear barbed by cutting 6-inch ends into the stick. Then weave thread or small rope between the cuts to spread the ends - making the barbs spread out like a fork or rake.

Using a flashlight or torch, you can fish with a spear in the shallows at night. Spear fishing takes patience to learn how to do effectively, but with practice you can become a natural. Spear fishing has the advantage of allowing you to select the largest fish instead of the more random nature of line fishing.

Weir Fishing
Weir fishing is an old and highly effective technique for trapping fish in rivers or tidal flats. The weir is built by driving long stakes into the water to make a V-shaped fence that is open on the downstream end and basically funnels swimming fish into another enclosure (made by driving more stakes into the riverbed).

This kind of trap can also be built with rock walls instead of stakes. When the fish are trapped in the smaller enclosure at the end of the weir, they can easily be caught by hand or speared.

Noodling
When no supplies are readily available to make improvised fishing gear, spears, or fishing weirs, the remaining option is fishing by hand, popularly called noodling.

You can effectively fish by hand by finding banks that are undercut, hollowed-out logs, or overhanging rocks that suckers and bottom-feeders like catfish like to hide under.

Block the escape entrance so fish can’t get out, and simply move your hand along the side of the fish until you can grab them by the gills or mouth. Noodling, like spear fishing, takes practice, but once the skill is learned, it is not easily lost. Noodling only works in warmer water, but it can be an effective way to get protein when you have no gear on hand.

What Have You Done?
You may not have been in a survival situation, but you’ve probably gone fishing and forgot some type of equipment. What did you do? Comment below to tell us your advice on how to fish without gear!

6 thoughts on “Fishing Without Fishing Gear”

  • Jeff

    As far as "lines" go - another good reuse of dental floss.

    Reply
  • Ginette

    I ran out of bait. So I gutted a fish I already had and used the gut as bait.

    Reply
  • Jonathan

    The average paracord bracelet uses about ten feet of rope. The internal nylon fibers makes for excellent and strong fishing line. A basic in-the-pocket survival kit should include a shiny metal teaspoon that has a small hole previously drilled at the pointy end and at the handle end of the spoon bowl to attach your line one end and the hook to the other. Simply work the metal handle back and forth until you can break it off and you have an effective and cheap lure. Until then the spoon is handy for normal use. Sadly there is trash on the banks of many streams and lakes, yet it can be useful. An empty plastic bottle can be used as a bobber or float. Water can be added to decrease buoyancy as needed. If without tackle look up in the surrounding branches; you may well find line and hooks caught up and abandoned by fishermen while casting. You may be able to safely retrieve it. Remember, always carry a knife. It is THE most basic piece of survival equipment.

    Reply
  • Roger

    Once you have the fish and want to continue...you must secure that fish on a stringer...if you don't have one...simply tie a large knot on one end and run opposite end thru the gills.....than tie the ends together in a slip knot and tie loose end to tree near water...it will keep the fish alive and fresh until your fishing is over.

    Reply
  • octavius

    if you are located near bodies of water that ebb and flow with the tide, you can create a "shelter" for fish in areas exposed during low tide but flooded in high tide. digg a trench, and add some structure for the fish to hide in. when the tide comes, some fish will find shelter in it.during low tide, the trench might still contain the fish, and retrieving them will be easy. remember, a lot of fish go near the banks during nighttime so location is key.

    Reply
  • mitchel

    Some things to be aware of when placing fish on a stringer:
    -Check very often because of:
    -Turtles
    -Snakes
    -Larger fish
    -Raccoons
    -Cats
    -Water dogs (these have another name that I can't remember right now, but they do exist and love to eat fish
    -Bears, and the list goes on for any hungry predator or scavenger.
    I have personally been terribly disappointed to find my fish gone or eaten away with only the heads remaining. PROBABLY BEST TO KEEP THE STRINGER ATTACHED TO YOUR BELT IF POSSIBLE.

    Reply
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