Learn How To Fish

Fishing is the activity of catching fish. Fish are normally caught in the wildTechniques for catching fish include hand gatheringspearingnettingangling and trapping.

The term fishing may be applied to catching other aquatic animals such as shellfish, cephalopods, crustaceans, and echinoderms. The term is not normally applied to catching aquatic mammals, such as whales, where the term whaling is more appropriate, or to farmed fish.

Learn how to clean a fish ...

Fish are a great source of food; but remember, if you fail to catch a fish in a survival situation, you can always eat the worm.

Fishing - Army Field Manunal


8-5. Worms (Annelidea) are an excellent protein source. Dig for them in damp humus soil and in the rootball of grass clumps, or watch for them on the ground after a rain. After capturing them, drop them into clean, potable water for about 15 minutes. The worms will naturally purge or wash themselves out, after which you can eat them raw.


8-6. Freshwater shrimp range in size from 0.25 centimeter (1/16 inch) up to 2.5 centimeters (1 inch). They can form rather large colonies in mats of floating algae or in mud bottoms of ponds and lakes.

8-7. Crayfish are akin to marine lobsters and crabs. You can distinguish them by their hard exoskeleton and five pairs of legs, the front pair having oversized pincers. Crayfish are active at night, but you can locate them in the daytime by looking under and around stones in streams. You can also find them by looking in the soft mud near the chimney-like breathing holes of their nests. You can catch crayfish by tying bits of offal or internal organs to a string. When the crayfish grabs the bait, pull it to shore before it has a chance to release the bait.

8-8. You can find saltwater lobsters, crabs, and shrimp from the surf's edge out to water 10 meters (33 feet) deep. Shrimp may come to a light at night where you can scoop them up with a net. You can catch lobsters and crabs with a baited trap or a baited hook. Crabs will come to bait placed at the edge of the surf, where you can trap or net them. Lobsters and crabs are nocturnal and caught best at night.

NOTE: You must cook all freshwater crustaceans, mollusks, and fish. Fresh water tends to harbor many dangerous organisms (see Chapter 6), animal and human contaminants, and possibly agricultural and industrial pollutants.


8-9. This class includes octopuses and freshwater and saltwater shellfish such as snails, clams, mussels, bivalves, barnacles, periwinkles, chitons, and sea urchins (Figure 8-1). You find bivalves similar to our freshwater mussel and terrestrial and aquatic snails worldwide under all water conditions.

Figure 8-1. Edible Mollusks

Figure 8-1. Edible Mollusks

8-10. River snails or freshwater periwinkles are plentiful in rivers, streams, and lakes of northern coniferous forests. These snails may be pencil point or globular in shape.

8-11. In fresh water, look for mollusks in the shallows, especially in water with a sandy or muddy bottom. Look for the narrow trails they leave in the mud or for the dark elliptical slit of their open valves.

8-12. Near the sea, look in the tidal pools and the wet sand. Rocks along beaches or extending as reefs into deeper water often bear clinging shellfish. Snails and limpets cling to rocks and seaweed from the low water mark upward. Large snails, called chitons, adhere tightly to rocks above the surf line.

8-13. Mussels usually form dense colonies in rock pools, on logs, or at the base of boulders.


Mussels may be poisonous in tropical zones during the summer! If a noticeable red tide has occurred within 72 hours, do not eat any fish or shellfish from that water source.

8-14. Steam, boil, or bake mollusks in the shell. They make excellent stews in combination with greens and tubers.


Do not eat shellfish that are not covered by water at high tide!


8-15. Fish represent a good source of protein and fat. They offer some distinct advantages to the survivor or evader. They are usually more abundant than mammal wildlife, and the ways to get them are silent. To be successful at catching fish, you must know their habits. For instance, fish tend to feed heavily before a storm. Fish are not likely to feed after a storm when the water is muddy and swollen. Light often attracts fish at night. When there is a heavy current, fish will rest in places where there is an eddy, such as near rocks. Fish will also gather where there are deep pools, under overhanging brush, and in and around submerged foliage, logs, or other objects that offer them shelter.

8-16. There are no poisonous freshwater fish. However, the catfish species has sharp, needlelike protrusions on its dorsal fins and barbels. These can inflict painful puncture wounds that quickly become infected.

8-17. Cook all freshwater fish to kill parasites. As a precaution, also cook saltwater fish caught within a reef or within the influence of a freshwater source. Any marine life obtained farther out in the sea will not contain parasites because of the saltwater environment. You can eat these raw.

8-18. Most fish encountered are edible. The organs of some species are always poisonous to man; other fish can become toxic because of elements in their diets. Ciguatera is a form of human poisoning caused by the consumption of subtropical and tropical marine fish which have accumulated naturally occurring toxins through their diet. These toxins build up in the fish's tissues. The toxins are known to originate from several algae species that are common to ciguatera endemic regions in the lower latitudes. Cooking does not eliminate the toxins; neither does drying, smoking, or marinating. Marine fish most commonly implicated in ciguatera poisoning include the barracudas, jacks, mackerel, triggerfish, snappers, and groupers. Many other species of warm water fishes harbor ciguatera toxins. The occurrence of toxic fish is sporadic, and not all fish of a given species or from a given locality will be toxic. This explains why red snapper and grouper are a coveted fish off the shores of Florida and the East Coast. While they are a restaurant and fisherman's favorite, and a common fish market choice, they can also be associated with 100 cases of food poisonings in May 1988, Palm Beach County, Florida. The poisonings resulted in a statewide warning against eating hogfish, grouper, red snapper, amberjack, and barracuda caught at the Dry Tortuga Bank. A major outbreak of ciguatera occurred in Puerto Rico between April and June 1981 prompting a ban on the sale of barracuda, amberjack, and blackjack. Other examples of poisonous saltwater fish are the porcupine fish, cowfish, thorn fish, oilfish, and puffer (Figure 8-2).

Figure 8-2. Fish With Poisonous Flesh

Figure 8-2. Fish With Poisonous Flesh


8-58. You can make your own fishhooks, nets, and traps. The paragraphs below discuss several methods to obtain fish.


8-59. You can make field-expedient fishhooks from pins, needles, wire, small nails, or any piece of metal. You can also use wood, bone, coconut shell, thorns, flint, seashell, or tortoise shell. You can also make fishhooks from any combination of these items (Figure 8-18).

Figure 8-18. Improvised Fishhooks

Figure 8-18. Improvised Fishhooks

8-60. To make a wooden hook, cut a piece of hardwood about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) long and about 6 millimeters (1/4 inch) in diameter to form the shank. Cut a notch in one end in which to place the point. Place the point (piece of bone, wire, nail) in the notch. Hold the point in the notch and tie securely so that it does not move out of position. This is a fairly large hook. To make smaller hooks, use smaller material.

8-61. A gorge or skewer is a small shaft of wood, bone, metal, or other material. It is sharp on both ends and notched in the middle where you tie cordage. Bait the gorge by placing a piece of bait on it lengthwise. When the fish swallows the bait, it also swallows the gorge. If you are tending the fishing line when the fish bites, do not attempt to pull on the line to set the hook as you would with a conventional hook. Allow the fish to swallow the bait to get the gorge as far down its throat before the gorge sets itself.


8-62. A stakeout is a fishing device you can use in a hostile environment (Figure 8-19). To construct a stakeout, drive two supple saplings into the bottom of the lake, pond, or stream with their tops just below the water surface. Tie a cord between them just slightly below the surface. Tie two short cords with hooks or gorges to this cord, ensuring that they cannot wrap around the poles or each other. They should also not slip along the long cord. Bait the hooks or gorges.

Figure 8-19. Stakeout

Figure 8-19. Stakeout


8-63. If a gill net is not available, you can make one using parachute suspension line or similar material (Figure 8-20). Remove the core lines from the suspension line and tie the casing between two trees. Attach several core lines to the casing by doubling them over and tying them with prusik knots or girth hitches. These lines should be six times the desired depth of the net (for example, a 6-foot [180-centimeter] piece of string girth-hitched over the casing will give you two 3-foot [90-centimeter] pieces, which after completing the net, will provide a 1-foot [30-centimeter] deep net). The length of the desired net and the size of the mesh determine the number of core lines used and the space between them. The recommended size of the spaces in the net mesh is about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) square. Starting at one end of the casing, tie the second and the third core lines together using an overhand knot. Then tie the fourth and fifth, sixth and seventh, and so on, until you reach the last core line. You should now have all core lines tied in pairs with a single core line hanging at each end. Start the second row with the first core line, tie it to the second, the third to the fourth, and so on.

Figure 8-20. Making a Gill Net

Figure 8-20. Making a Gill Net

8-64. To keep the rows even and to regulate the size of the mesh, tie a guideline to the trees. Position the guideline on the opposite side of the net you are working on. Move the guideline down after completing each row. The lines will always hang in pairs and you always tie a cord from one pair to a cord from an adjoining pair. Continue tying rows until the net is the desired width. Thread a suspension line casing along the bottom of the net to strengthen it. Use the gill net as shown in Figure 8-21. Angling the gill net will help to reduce the amount of debris that may accumulate in the net. Be sure to check it frequently.

Figure 8-21. Setting a Gill Net in the Stream

Figure 8-21. Setting a Gill Net in the Stream


8-65. You may trap fish using several methods (Figure 8-22). Fish baskets are one method. You construct them by lashing several sticks together with vines into a funnel shape. You close the top, leaving a hole large enough for the fish to swim through.

Figure 8-22. Various Types of Fish Traps

Figure 8-22. Various Types of Fish Traps

8-66. You can also use traps to catch saltwater fish, as schools regularly approach the shore with the incoming tide and often move parallel to the shore. Pick a location at high tide and build the trap at low tide. On rocky shores, use natural rock pools. On coral islands, use natural pools on the surface of reefs by blocking the openings as the tide recedes. On sandy shores, use sandbars and the ditches they enclose. Build the trap as a low stone wall extending outward into the water and forming an angle with the shore.


8-67. If you are near shallow water (about waist deep) where the fish are large and plentiful, you can spear them. To make a spear, cut a long, straight sapling (Figure 8-23). Sharpen the end to a point or attach a knife, jagged piece of bone, or sharpened metal. You can also make a spear by splitting the shaft a few inches down from the end and inserting a piece of wood to act as a spreader. You then sharpen the two separated halves to points. To spear fish, find an area where fish either gather or where there is a fish run. Place the spear point into the water and slowly move it toward the fish. Then, with a sudden push, impale the fish on the stream bottom. Do not try to lift the fish with the spear, as it with probably slip off and you will lose it; hold the spear with one hand and grab and hold the fish with the other. Do not throw the spear, especially if the point is a knife. You cannot afford to lose a knife in a survival situation. Be alert to the problems caused by light refraction when looking at objects in the water. You must aim lower than the object, usually at the bottom of the fish, to hit your mark.

Figure 8-23. Types of Spear Points

Figure 8-23. Types of Spear Points


8-68. At night, in an area with high fish density, you can use a light to attract fish. Then, armed with a machete or similar weapon, you can gather fish using the back side of the blade to strike them. Do not use the sharp side as you will cut them in two pieces and end up losing some of the fish.


8-69. Another way to catch fish is by using poison. Poison works quickly. It allows you to remain concealed while it takes effect. It also enables you to catch several fish at one time. When using fish poison, be sure to gather all of the affected fish, because many dead fish floating downstream could arouse suspicion. Some plants that grow in warm regions of the world contain rotenone, a substance that stuns or kills cold-blooded animals but does not harm persons who eat the animals. The best place to use rotenone, or rotenone-producing plants, is in ponds or the headwaters of small streams containing fish. Rotenone works quickly on fish in water 21 degrees C (70 degrees F) or above. The fish rise helplessly to the surface. It works slowly in water 10 to 21 degrees C (50 to 70 degrees F) and is ineffective in water below 10 degrees C (50 degrees F). The following plants, used as indicated, will stun or kill fish:

  • Anamirta cocculus (Figure 8-24). This woody vine grows in southern Asia and on islands of the South Pacific. Crush the bean-shaped seeds and throw them in the water.

  • Croton tiglium (Figure 8-24). This shrub or small tree grows in waste areas on islands of the South Pacific. It bears seeds in three angled capsules. Crush the seeds and throw them into the water.

  • Barringtonia (Figure 8-24). These large trees grow near the sea in Malaya and parts of Polynesia. They bear a fleshy one-seeded fruit. Crush the seeds and bark and throw into the water.

  • Derris eliptica (Figure 8-24). This large genus of tropical shrubs and woody vines is the main source of commercially produced rotenone. Grind the roots into a powder and mix with water. Throw a large quantity of the mixture into the water.

  • Duboisia (Figure 8-24). This shrub grows in Australia and bears white clusters of flowers and berrylike fruit. Crush the plants and throw them into the water.

  • Tephrosia (Figure 8-24). This species of small shrubs, which bears beanlike pods, grows throughout the tropics. Crush or bruise bundles of leaves and stems and throw them into the water.

Figure 8-24. Fish-Poisoning Plants

Figure 8-24. Fish-Poisoning Plants

  • Lime. You can get lime from commercial sources and in agricultural areas that use large quantities of it. You may produce your own by burning coral or seashells. Throw the lime into the water.

  • Nut husks. Crush green husks from butternuts or black walnuts. Throw the husks into the water.

Website Builder