Though sport fishing has plenty of rules, catching fish by hand for survival is more than legal–it’s a necessity. I recently wrote up a list of survival kit extras. One thing I should have included is a few hooks, a leader and some fishing line. But if you’re in a pinch and a fish could make the difference between survival and a bad end to your story, use these tips to catch a fish by hand.
Now I should say, I have seen plenty of info on making fishing tackle in the wild. It usually consists of strapping together a two piece hook with green birch bark or something like that. And then baiting it with peanut butter (because everyone carries peanut butter into the bush, right?), and using a shoelace as a fishing line. Doesn’t sound too practical. Other methods involve using items that have been left in the woods–tin cans, nets, fishing hooks, etc. But I don’t routinely see these things. And based on Murphy’s Law, if you needed them, they wouldn’t be there.
But here are a couple of ways you could realistically catch a fish to eat in a survival situation.
First, there’s the wiggling worm method. It’s pretty simple. You just lay down next to a pool (river eddies, seaside pools, etc.) or get down in a pond or lake. After you’ve been still for a long time, slowly hold out your hand and start wiggling your fingers. It might take a while, but eventually, a fish will come by and check it out. Might not catch a lunker but any food is better than no food. Once they nibble your finger, you have to grab them quickly and carefully. It will take you a few tries and maybe a couple of hours. But be patient and it will pay off.
Another option is to go noodling. As we’ve reported before, it’s illegal in many states. But if the game warden steps out to give you a ticket, you’re rescued anyway. In a survival situation, just about anything goes. To noodle, wade down into the water and reach up into holes to find nesting catfish. If you find one, stick your hand in its mouth and wait for it to clamp on. And there you go. Dinner.
The other way I’ve learned is to stack rocks in a V-shape that lead out into the water. It takes a lot of rocks, because they have to come up above the surface. But you can fortify your construction with mud and in half a day, you can have it built. All you have to do is leave the pointed end of the V open. If you have any kind of bait you can throw it in the water. Then sit and wait for a fish to swim in. Once it does, wade out and close off the V with rocks, a log or just with your body. Catching the fish from there isn’t exactly easy, but it gives you a finite amount of space for the fish to escape to.
Your best bet, of course, is to never get suck in a situation where you have to fish or die. But if you find yourself stuck, these tricks might keep you alive. Any other ways to catch a fish when you’re gearless?