Emergency Preparedness: Survival Fishing Techniques

Survival FishingFishing can be a very rewarding pastime, but it can also be a life-saver in a survival situation, as fish are a great and healthy source of protein. Once you know how to find water that’s likely to have fish, you need to know how to catch the fish, and of course know how to prepare the fish for eating. In many cases it’s fine to eat them raw, but a little cooking can go a long way.

Survival is also about self-sufficiency, and the better you are at fishing, the more you are able to provide food for yourself and your loved ones without relying on external systems.

Regular fishing is more a relaxing past-time but fishing during an emergency situation is only about survival, and that survival is dependent on you catching fish!

When & Where To Go Fishing

If it is hot and the water is low the fish will seek out deep, shaded waters. When it is cold you would rather find them in more shallow areas where the sun has a better chance at warming the water. Fish love those spots that are “special” in some way. Like where the bank/shore protrudes over the water, trees that hang out over the water, rocks, submerged trees/stumps/boats/cars/etc.

If you are fishing in a stream/river fish tend to be found in the slower flowing waters like the outer edge of a bend or where a smaller stream meets a larger stream, etc.

Some signs of a perfect fishing spot is when the fish are jumping out of the water or when ripples are clearly visible on the surface of the water. These are generally signs that the fish are currently feeding. Also if you see a bunch of small fish darting about it is probable that there is a larger predatory fish in the vicinity.

It is generally not very productive to fish after a heavy rain fall.

Improving Hooks, Lines & Lures


The one thing great about improvising hooks is they can be made out of almost any material, including but not limited to needles, safety pins, nails, paper clips, thorns, a bird wishbone or claw, a piece of metal cut from a can, soda tab and even a piece of carved wood. Don’t overlook ANY possibility!

A simpler type of hook — the gorge or toggle hook — has been used by primitive people for centuries. This is a short (1 inch or less), straight piece of hard material, such as bone, antler or wood that has been sharpened at both ends and slightly notched in the middle where it’s attached to the line. The gorge is hidden inside a piece of soft bait, and when a fish swallows the bait, the fisherman pulls the line and the gorge turns (hopefully!) sideways, lodging it in the fishes throat.

The most famous and popular improvised fishing hook is the Soda Pop Tab Fishing Hook.

Soda Tab Hook

Unfortunately in all modern societies you will find garbage laying around but during a survival situation this garbage is invaluable. Making one is simple, just find a soda can and pull the soda tab off.

1. Slowly bend the top part of the tab at a 45-degree angle to weaken the corner.

2. Taking your time, cut a small chunk out, leaving a sharp angle. (This will dull your knife, but this is survival, people!)

3. Use a rock or file, if available, to sharpen the tip.

4. Attach to a spare thread, shoe lace, floss, or fishing line, if you’re so blessed.

Photographic instructions on the Soda (or beer) Tab Hook

Paper clips make excellent improvised hooks

Paper clips, though not as strong as safety pins, can also be used as hooks. Simply bend them into the desired shape. Be careful to bend one end into a whorl, then back in on itself to make a loop to tie onto your line.

Many other improvised hooks

Cut a few thorny-looking twigs with several bends in them. Use a pocket knife to trim away the bark and sharpen the ends to resemble hooks. Gouge a hole in one end and tie onto your line. Bait each barb. Twig hooks are great for catching catfish. Another advantage of these hooks is that they are made of all natural materials and will break down and be absorbed without damage to the environment.

More improvised hooks

More improvised hooks


Camouflage your improvised hooks by adding feathers, bits of ferny plant, or fallen leaves to them. Lay several feather pinions or plant stems against your hook, being sure that everything dangles just below the hook, and trim away any excess material. Wrap several times around with black thread, as if making a trout fly. Go back a second time, close to the head of your improvised hook, and wrap with red thread, about a quarter inch. This helps make your hook look more like an insect.

It may take a little more patience to use these hooks. Be sure to set the hook with a quick jerk once you are sure the fish has taken your bait.


Fishing line may be harder to procure but can be made from many materials that might be on hand, including threads in clothing and equipment, pieces of wire, dental floss, sinew from the leg of a deer, twisted bark or whatever else is available.

You can make lures from pieces of cloth, feathers, an earring or bits of bright metal fashioned to imitate natural food like a minnow or insect. In many waters, all you need to catch fish is a strip of colored cloth attached to a hook.


Another really cool idea for an improvised lure came from a YouTube video series on SurvivalPodcast that talked about using flowers as a fish lure.


Trotlines & Traps

During a survival or emergency situation your time is valuable. So why not maximize that by using Fish Traps and/or Trotlines. They are both very easy to set up and you can literally set it and forget it!

When fishing using trotlines or traps it is generally most productive to leave them out over night and check them just before first light.

Trotline Diagram

Trotline Diagram

To build a trotline you would weight one end of a line to the bottom of the body of water. At interval lengths, along the line, tie on shorter strands of line each with a baited hook. The end of the line, that is opposite the weighted end, you can either place a float/buoy or tie it off to something on shore like a stake or a branch of a tree.

Check the line periodically throughout the day to see if any fish have been caught. While checking the line, one can also replace bait, untangle drop lines, and retrieve any fish on the line.

Care is needed when checking or setting the line to make sure that no one is accidentally hooked in any part of the process.

Remember to use a heavy fishing line for your trotline.

River, Lake, Shore Fish TrapA fish trap uses a funnel like entrance to direct a fish into a baited container or cage and through constricting movement or the simple shape of the trap makes it difficult for the fish to find the entrance and use it as an exit. The image to the right is a lashed together trap constructed from flexible twigs but the same concept can be made a number of ways. Such as a hollow log could be used as the container and you would only need to close one end completely and lash together a funnel entrance for the other, You can also use a plastic bottle to catch small fish to be used as bait for trotlines or for fishing with a pole by cutting the funneled top off and inserting it in the bottom of the bottle inverted.

If you have any other cool survival fishing tips and techniques please share by commenting =)

1 Comment

One Response to “Emergency Preparedness: Survival Fishing Techniques”

  1. Timmy says:

    on the video it says to cut a notch in one end at around &.00. instead if you find a branch with a Y one end then you can put the wire through the Y. it just saves cutting.

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