Survival Fishing Techniques You Need To Know

Being able to find food is probably one of the key survival skills everyone should know. There are various ways we can go about it, but knowing how to catch fish is definitely a plus. Fishing can provide you with sustainable food source since there is an abundance of fish almost everywhere. Also, in an emergency situation, catching fish is probably one of the easiest ways to survive.

Moreover, fish is an excellent source of nutrition, and the best part is that they’re super easy to obtain. As we know, fish typically live in large bodies of water such as rivers, ponds, and alpine lakes; however, your best bet should be a stream or river. The most important thing is for you to know how to catch fish and keep them alive, so you don’t use up your energy in vain.

One sure thing is that fish can provide two to three meals each day, but the issue now is how to go about catching them to ensure your survival. Well, the good news is there are a number of methods or techniques for catching fish, but some of them are considered illegal; but let’s face it; you’ve got to do whatever it takes to survive especially when your life is on the line.

Since you’re looking to eat to survive, you’ll have to trump some laws, but I’ll always advise to desist from breaking any fishing laws unless you’re actually dealing with an emergency situation.

First Things First – Bring Essential Fishing Supplies

It’s always an excellent idea to carry fishing supplies as part of your essential survival gear when heading to the backcountry. Since life is typically full of uncertainties, you have to be prepared to face and beat the odds. So be sure to carry a collection of hooks, line, swivels as well as small weights so you can be on the safer side.

Well, the very first thing to do when you find yourself in a wilderness emergency is to locate a water source. The good news is, you’re very likely to find a river or stream while searching for a way out the emergency and that’s your cue to catch some fish.


The surest way to succeed at fishing is by learning about the behavior of fishes. You need to take out time to observe the movements of the fish; more like where it goes at different times of the day. Well, just like other living creatures, fishes love to stay in places that are comfortable for them as well as where they can get easy access to their prey.

It all boils down to the weather condition of the wilderness. So, if you find that the weather is hot and the water is low, then you’re likely to find your catch in deep shaded water. Now, if it’s cold, I recommend looking for a shallow place where the sun warms the water.

It’s also important to note that you’re likely to find smaller fish at higher elevations, but you might not find yourself in these areas at times of an emergency. The good news is that you’re likely to find lots of large fish in streams and rivers located in the lowlands (valley and foothills).

In a nutshell, it’s really important that you know where the fish are, otherwise all the techniques discussed below will of no use to you. The advice above will give you some clue as to where fishes tend to be. However, it takes some practice and experience to be good at spotting fish.

Fortunately, with advance technology these days, you can use a device that will automatically scan the area for fish, known as the fish finder. It operates on ultrasound technology in which it will emit and receive sound waves to detect fish. Also, it will reveal the fish density of the scanned area so you will have a good idea of where most of the fish are.

Use a Fish Net

When it comes to fishing for survival, the most common type of net to use is the gill net. These nets are more effective during the migratory run of fish. Gill nets work by entangling fish as they try to swim through the openings of the net. The good thing is that you’re likely to catch lots of fish if things go as planned.

How To Use Gill Nets?

Well, you only have to string it between two anchor points and leave it to hang straight down into the water. You can string the net across a stream, pond or lake and there’s no need to place the top of the net on the surface of the water. If you’re using a gill net in a large body of water, you can anchor the net with sticks in the water in a circular manner; so it’ll be more like a fish trap. The net can also be pulled as a seine along a shoreline to catch a group of fish; the fish will be caught when you close both ends.


Angling is a very popular fishing method that can ensure your survival. This method requires some items from your survival kit. For the most part, you’ll need a hook, line and a fishing rod. You’ll need to attach the hook to the line which supposed to be connected to a rod; you’ll also need to add a small weight so the hook can go down.

It’s also crucial to get a float so the bait can stay at the top of the water and off the bottom (a small piece of bark should suffice). Even if you lost your hook or forgot to bring it along, you can create fishing hooks from materials such as thorns, safety pins, dried bone, etc. Insect and worms are sure to work great as bait; be sure to change to another bait if one fails to get the job done.

Survival Spear Fishing

Another technique of survival fishing technique to consider is spear fishing. Spearfishing is actually one of the oldest methods of fishing that has been around for ages; it’s one of the earliest skills learned by the prehistoric man. The very first thing you should know is that spear fishing requires time, patience and tons of practice to get it right; it’s more like the ultimate blend between a hunter and an angler.

It’s better to use a spear in shallow water so you can get a better view of your catch. The next thing is for you to move the spear as close as possible to the fish and quickly spear your catch! A forked spear is sure to work great for your catch, so try to be creative!


Piercing through the slippery scales or defeating the slender profile of most fish is not a walk in the park, but it’s still an excellent idea to give spear fishing a shot especially when you have no other means of catching fish.


Are you in a dire emergency? If yes, you can use natural fish poison to stun or kill the fish. What you should know is that the poison can be derived from a variety of natural materials and they can be used in shallow pools or still waters to kill a substantial amount of fish without much effort and time.

Here are a couple of things that are sure to come in handy

  • For starters, there are some plants which can be crushed and used to release compounds into the water to poison and eventually kill the fish.
  • Using young nut husks from walnuts in large quantities can also poison fish.
  • Lime can also be used to poison fish in shallow pools. You can make this fish poison by simply burning seashells and crushing the same; this shouldn’t take much of your time as long as you’re in the right location.

Use a Fish Weir

Ever heard about a fish weir? Fish weirs are obstruction which you can create to guide or trap fish to your desired location. A weir could be a circular fence, wall or large funnel that’s primarily designed to lead fish into your trap. The good thing is that the conventional styles of weir construction can still be used in your wilderness emergency situation. For the most part, weirs can be constructed from stone or wood; the stone provides a permanent construction while the use of stakes provides for semi-permanent installations. You can also place nets and baskets at the end of the weirs to trap or contain the fish. Moreover, a weir can make your spear fishing efforts a whole lot easier!

Preparing Your Fish

Well, cleaning and cooking your fish might not seem like a fishing technique, but it’s an important phase of the process. I mean, you do not want to end up getting food poisoning after your big catch. The truth is that you can eat all parts of fish, but it’s still a great idea to remove the internal organs. There are two steps to preparing your fish including:

Cleaning Your Fish

Alright. The very first thing to do is to gut your fish. Gutting your fish is super easy, in fact, the process is exactly as it sounds! Just get your knife and cut from the anus of the fish and go all the way to the belly, and finally to the bottom jaw. Just be careful not to puncture any of its internal organs while making the incision. You can choose to remove the head or simply use your knife to severe the connection between the internal organs and head of the fish.

Once you’re done with that, the next thing is for you to reach in near the head and gut out the internal organs. This should be a piece of cake as the body cavity will be empty in no time. Now that you’ve peeled out the organs, you only have to wash the body cavity out with the water.

Cooking Your Fish

Now that you’ve cleaned your fish, you’re ready to cook it and enjoy a well-earned meal! The good news is that there are a couple of ways to cook your fish even in a survival situation. Here are a few ways to go about cooking your fish and enjoying it to your heart’s content.

  • For starters, you can get a stick and use the same to impale a whole fish. Once you’ve done that, you can cook it over an open fire. This is the fastest and easiest way to cook your fish but boiling it is also great especially if you’re looking to enjoy its value to the fullest.
  • As I mentioned earlier, you can cook your fish by boiling, and the best part is that you’ll get to save the juices for broth (just be sure to boil it with the skin).
  • You can also use clay to cook fish; remember, you’re in a survival situation! Just pack fish into a ball of clay and bury the same in the coals of a fire. Be sure leave the fish until the clay hardens. At this point, you only have to break open the clay ball to collect the cooked fish. You can also smoke or fry it especially if you plan to eat the fish later. So how can you prepare the fish for smoking? Simply cut off the head; remove the backbone, and you’re good to go!

Note: You should know that fish is bound to spoil quickly after death. So, it’s crucial to clean and cook your fish immediately after catching it.


And that’s it! With all that being said, we can conclude that fishing is an excellent way to survive in the backcountry. The best part is that catching fish is not difficult once you learned the right techniques to catch and harvest fish. Aside from fish being a sustainable food source, fishing is a pretty good skill to have while dealing with emergency situations – though you will most likely need to improvise, utilizing materials around you to fish.

Author Bio: Hi guys, I am John, an avid outdoors-man that blogs over at I am by no means an expert but I will be sharing all the useful tips I learned along the way with you.

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3 thoughts on “Survival Fishing Techniques You Need To Know”

  1. No Mention of a Yo-Yo fishing reel(s)? These are great devices. Can be left alone for many hours and very dependable. (and legal in several states, check your states reg’s first). They can also be used for animal snares / traps too (probably not legal, but in a survival situation…). Usually around $2 a piece, available singularly or by the dozen. Available on line. Highly recommended, especially for both survival food procurement and for your barter box too.

  2. A cast net is also a good tool for collecting fish, as is the ‘Hawaiian Sling’ if you want to choose which particular fish you want.

  3. Here in Montana, there are fish in nearly every stream around. While we advocate and practice catch and release, when we go into the backcountry we make fish a large part of our diet. A hook and line tied onto a stick is sufficient for the brookies in the small streams, but a telescopic ultralight spinning rod is the cat’s meow. I usually have a couple small spinners in my kit, but if all I bring is a line and hook, live bait works best. It is usually fairly easy to find pine beetle grubs and other bugs by simply pulling bark off dead logs, or, if in season, grasshoppers and crickets work great. Worms can be hard to find in many places in these mountains. As far as baking fish in clay; that method is my last resort. Though the fish gets cooked superbly, it takes a long time, and I have never been able to do it without eating a bit of clay too, which grinds like sand between the teeth! Anyway, thanks for the article. There seems to be a leaning toward the freeze-dried food these days and less interest by many to collect natural food – good to see you promote fishing for survival!


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