Your guide to catching fish without proper gear

Freshly caught fish is a good way to feed yourself in the wilderness. But what if you lost your fishing gear or didn’t bring any with you in the first place? A Survivopedia article covers the many ways to catch fish with improvised equipment.

You don’t need to buy expensive fishing gear and haul it with you everywhere. You can make your own bait, hook, and line out of commonly available items.

Lures can be improvised from bird feathers, earrings with shiny jewels, or strips of brightly-colored cloth. Use brightly colored objects that are easier for fish to spot.

Furthermore, try to make the lure look like a tasty insect. Use the fish’s hunger against it to sate your own hunger.

Next is the hook. Get a splinter of bone, a sharp twig, or a shard of shell. Use a knife or similar tool to shape the material into something that can catch inside the jaw of a fish.

You can fashion fishing line out of wire, threads taken from clothing, or creepers and vines from nearby trees. To cast this line, attach it to a spiral-shaped branch.

Fish trap

If your spot has moving water, you can try trap fishing. To do this, you will need to build a fishing weir, a small dam that can trap fish. Gather sturdy sticks of wood that are long enough to jut out of the water.

Build a heart-shaped dam with the upper part of the heart facing towards the flowing water. The center of that upper part should have an open funnel that can let fish inside the trap. The current will keep fish from swimming out.

The weir must block the entire width of the river. Make sure the spaces between the stakes are too tight for the fish.

If you want a proactive trap, you can make improvised nets or basket traps. The net calls for a large piece of cloth to be tied to two sticks, while the basket trap requires you to cut off the neck of plastic soda bottles, inverting that neck, and sticking it into the bottle.

Both require you to scare fish towards shallow waters, where you’ll have the traps set or can catch them with the net.

Catch fish with rocks, spears, canes, poison, or your bare hands

Another method involving stampeding fish is rock throwing. Toss an average-sized rock into deep waters. As the fish flee the disturbance, you can catch them with a perforated container.

If you want to catch bigger fish, you can craft spears. Take a long stick of wood and either sharpen one end of it or fasten a knife to that end. Practice your technique. (Related: Survival fishing: 5 tips for catching, eating, and preserving fish.)

You can also try caning. Get a strong stick, wait for a fish to approach you, and then smack it hard as many times as necessary.

Native plants can be used to poison fish. You can collect fish poison from the berries and leaves of the American pokeweed, the bark and green husk of the black walnut, the fruit and twigs of horse chestnut, the bulb of the soap plant, and the seeds of wild cucumber.

Grind those poisonous parts and drop them into the water. Only use the poison in slow-moving streams, as they will render ponds lifeless and don’t work in large or fast-moving bodies of water.

Finally, “noodling” is catching the fish with your bare hands. Look for places where fish feel safe, like rocks or logs. Wait until one gets near you before seizing it by the gills or mouth and hauling it out of the water.

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