How to Catch Fish

OK, you made it. You bugged out to the wilderness or to your super-secret bug-out location. Now you need a continual food source for the long term, regardless of how big your stockpile is.

One of the most touted ways pertaining to wilderness survival food is, of course, fishing.

There’s absolutely no way of covering everything in a single article, fishing is such a vast topic, but I’m gonna do my best to cover pretty much every way known to mankind of catching fish.

There are a lot of ways to catch a fish. Some methods require nothing more than your bare hands, others need some advanced tools to be effective, while still others are just crazy (think drones and boomerangs).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start with the most basic way to catch fish.

With Your Bare Hands

Catching fish with your bare hands is something you probably won’t have to do because you’ll either have proper tools or you can just make a basic spear. But, then again, you never know.

The best way to do it is to sneak up on the fish from behind. Fish are usually facing upstream most of the time so the trick is to slowly put your hands in the water, slowly come close to it and then quickly grab it with both hands.

Now, does this mean you need to get your feet into the water? Not necessarily.

Whether it’s a river or a lake, try and find a bank that’s right next to as deep a water as possible and just sit there, with your hands ready above the water. Find a comfortable position because you’ll need to stay still for a long time.

Caution: keeping your hands and feet in the water for prolonged periods of time could lead to hypothermia. This is going to be an even bigger problem post-SHTF, with limited medical aid and supplies, so be careful.

Now, to do catch a fish with your bare hands, you have to be really quick. Just in case you’re not, there’s a technique called “trout tickling” which, unfortunately, works only for trout.

The idea is to kneel next to the fish without scaring it, and slowly run your forefinger along his belly.

Note: Catching fish with your bare hands could actually be illegal in your area! Check state laws both where you live and in the state where your bug-out retreat is located.

With a Net

First, you need a net. If you don’t have one, you can easily make it from nylon linen. Just follow Joe’s instructions below:

Survival Skills: Make your own Gill Net.

The way it works is after you’ve made your net, you set it up across or on the bottom of the river and the fish just get caught in it. Set it up overnight and you might wake up with a big breakfast the next morning.

Of course, when making it you need to keep in mind the size of the fish. If they’re too small, they’ll swim right through it. If they’re too big, they might tear it apart and destroy all your hard work.

Pole Fishing

Pole fishing is, of course, one of the most effective ways to catch fish and it will remain so, provided you stockpile the necessary gear to do so. Whether you’re an enthusiast or not, you should stock the right gear.

Fishing is such a huge topic that I won’t even begin to cover all the gear you can use. Instead, I’m going to give you a few tips pertaining to gear needed for survival fishing.

basic fishing gear: fishing rod, hooks, float, lure, sinkers, folding knife, and fishing pliers
basic fishing gear: fishing rod, hooks, float, lure, sinkers, folding knife, and fishing pliers


It’s cheap and easy to stash a few dozen fishing hooks for post-SHTF fishing. However, just in case you don’t have them on hand, it’s worth while to learn to make improvised fishing hooks.

The possibilities are endless. You can make some from wood, metal, seashell, even thorns.

Here’s a really cool video showing how to make a hook out of a deer’s jaw bone:

How to make bone fish hooks

Next, you’re going to need a fishing rod. You can make as many as you need in the wild from living tree branches. You’ll need a fishing line. Again, you can improvise by using, for example, dental floss if that’s what you have.

Of course, if you really want to be a good fisherman, you need to learn everything there is about both salt and fresh water and the fish that live in each.

Things like knowing the exact depth of the lake are crucial if you want to be an effective fisherman.

The Stakeout

This works well in fast-running waters or if the ideal fishing place is not close enough to a bank.

Put two solid stakes a few feet apart from one another, then tie them with a cord. Make sure the cord and the stakes are below the surface of the water.

Next, tie one or more shorter cords to the main one and place a hook and the bait at the loose end. You can put as many of these smaller cords as you want provided they are placed far enough from each-other and the poles to avoid entanglements.

This is also called a trotline and, by the way, you can easily use paracord to make this.


Fishing with a spear is one of the first ways to you should learn because that you don’t need to carry a spear with you; you can usually just make one. Spearfishing only works in shallow waters, though.

If the water goes above your waistline, you should consider other ways such as snorkeling. You’ll need the right gear, such as a snorkeling tube, mask, and fins. You’re also going to need something like a mesh bag to put the fish in once you catch them.

Fishing With a Harpoon

Although we all have this image in our head that a harpoon has to be mounted on a deck launcher, Inuit hunters used their own hands to achieve the same result when they would fish using kayaks.

Harpoons are bigger and stronger than spears and they’re used to catch bigger fish. The main thing harpoons have is a cord which connects them to the shaft, making it easy to draw the fish to the boat

Fishing With a Speargun

Spearguns are what you may call “fancy devices” compared to the methods that we’ve discussed so far but, if you have the 150 to 200 bucks to spare, then why not?

Of course, you should keep your location or your bug-out location in mind before choosing this method. If you don’t have shallow waters then they won’t be of much use to you.

The big mistake people make is they always get the biggest darn speargun they can find. The bigger ones have more power, they work for longer distances, and are more suitable for bigger fish.

Bigger guns require better water visibility as well. If you’ve never done this before, you should probably go with a smaller one,  75 cm to 100 cm (30 to 40 inches).

There are two types of spearguns: rubber and pneumatic, which basically refers to the mechanism used to fire the spear. There are a few other “technologies” such as CO2, a spring, and even gun powder, but the first two are the most common.

The first type uses rubber bands to fire the spear while pneumatic spear guns have an airtight chamber with a piston inside.

Which one should you get? Band guns are easier to fix if they break but they also tend to be longer and take longer to load.

Pneumatic spear guns will require a mechanic to fix, or for you to learn to repair it yourself for post-apocalyptic scenarios. The bottom line is that you should focus on getting the right length.


Bowfishing is easy. You need a bow and some special arrows (the ones you use to shoot a target won’t do). A simple bow will do, although you can find pretty fancy ones if you can afford them.

The arrows used for bowfishing are heavier, have multiple barbed points and have no fletching. You should stockpile these if you intend to use them post-disaster because they’re going to be hard to find and even harder to manufacture.

Using a Polespear

If you’re looking for something cheaper and a little less fancy than a speargun, a polespear is for for you. It has a simpler construction that includes, a pole, preferably made of fiberglass, a hook, and a rubber band.

If you have to choose between a polespear and a speargun, go with the former. You’ll save money and be able to focus more on the technique before you move on to bigger guns.

With a Gig or a Trident

These are both multi-pronged spears used for hunting fish, frogs, and small game. They’re effective because of the multi-tines on one end which do a very good job of securing the fish.

Using a Hawaiian Sling

If you’re looking for something easy and simple, the Hawaiian Sling is just what you need.  Lightweight, and easy to operate.

To give you an idea, the Hawaiian Sling is more powerful than a polespear, but not as strong as a speargun. They may look similar to polespears, however they are functionally different. The grip slides along your pole rather than your hand.

Poisoning Them With Rotetone

Although few people heard of it, rotetone is a substance poisonous to fish but harmless for the people who eat those fish. Indigenous people have used it for centuries for this purpose and it’s perfectly safe.

Fish are extremely sensitive to this substance as they can die in less than a couple of hours from consumption.

You can find this substance in lime, nut husks, and many other wild plants.

Making Fish Traps

Although not as fun, fishing using traps has the huge advantage of requiring very little energy. And we all know preserving your energy is of paramount importance in a survival situation.

One of the easiest basket traps to make is in the shape of a funnel that you make by putting several sticks together, in the shape of a cone.

Here’s an A to Z video on how to make a fish trap:

Survival Fishing- The Ultimate Primitive Basket Fish Trap

Dynamite Fishing

This method is not only dangerous but also destructive for the surrounding environment. Use with caution post-SHTF and only when you have no other choice. This is obviously illegal right now but it may worth knowing about it.

Using a Boomerang?

Definitely possible. But it only works on Asian carp. Check this video out, it’s simply amazing:

Asian Carp Boomerang Kills

With a Drone

There’s nothing really fancy about this, it’s useful because it allows you to fish in really deep waters even if you don’t have a boat. I doubt this method will be available to you post-SHTF.

Useful Tips

I bet you never imagined there were so many ways to catch fish, did you? But I’m not done yet as I have a few tips to give you that will hopefully make fishing a lot easier for you.

When in really deep waters, have a dive knife

This really isn’t used for defending against predator fish, although you never know if you fish in the ocean!

However, it is possible for you to get tangled under water. Having a dive knife will help you quickly get out of any entanglement (fishing lines, dive reels, and so on).

Know where to look for fish

Just because you can’t see any, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Look for fish under rocks, ledges, and crevasses.

Get it to come to you

Sometimes, if you’re patient, the fish will come to you. You don’t have to do anything but, in such cases, it’s preferable to be partially hidden behind a rock so you don’t look too menacing. This is hard, I’ll tell you that, but sometimes…

The Big Takeaway

Regardless of the fishing methods you choose, the big takeaway from this article should be this: the less aggressive you are underwater, the more fish you’ll catch.

1 thought on “How to Catch Fish”

  1. Great posting. I first laughed at your title about learning to fish. After watching your videos and exploring you fishing info. I don’t really know how to fish in a serious life and death event.
    Keep up the good work.
    Bill Snapp

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