Survival Fishing 101: How to Get Fish to Take the Bait

“Good things come to those who bait,” said some wise guy a long time ago.

We couldn’t agree more.

After finding shelter and water, looking for food should be your next priority when SHTF. In that case, knowing different fishing techniques would be an essential skill. You can never go wrong with some freshly caught fish, after all.

Ready to learn about survival fishing? We’ll tell you what you need to know about catching fish hook, line, and sinker.

Why Is Survival Fishing an Important Wilderness Survival Skill?

If you wanna gear up for wilderness survival, then you have several reasons to learn survival fishing techniques. For one, fish is packed with protein and nutrients to keep you healthy, especially in survival situations.

Surviving post-SHTF means doing a lot of grunt work, so you’ll need all the muscle strength you can get. Eating fish can also promote healthy brain function, lower blood pressure, and decrease your risk of getting a stroke.

More importantly, survival fishing can sustain you when you run out of emergency food. Unlike hunting, setting primitive fish traps can save you lots of precious time and energy.

Lastly, fish tastes delicious. If you’ve ever had a good catch-and-cook experience, you’ll know that nothing beats munching down on a fresh catch cooked over an open fire.

Fishing is definitely one of the essential survival skills to learn in case SHTF. So how do you make sure you get a catch every time, even with limited gear? We’ve got a few ideas:

8 Survival Fishing Traps and Techniques to Get a Tasty Meal

Before you try out these methods, you should make sure that you’re not breaking any laws. With that said, you should only do these when you’re really desperate for food.

Gorge Hooks

A gorge hook is different from fishing with a customary bent hook. In contrast, this hook is straight and approximately one inch in length.

You can make a gorge hook from twigs, hard plastic pieces, bones, or basically from anything that’s hard. Sharpen the hook on every end and put a notch in the center. This is where the fishing line connects to it.

When using a gorge hook, your goal should be getting the fish to devour the hook and bait. Don’t jolt the line. Instead, pull it slowly so that the gorge hook rotates sideways and gets wedged in the fish’s throat. After that, pull the fish in your direction and use a net to catch it.


A trotline will only work in rivers, streams, creeks, and other moving water sources. You can install several snoods using a trotline and have the opportunity to hook a lot of fish. This method works particularly well on catfish and other bottom feeders.

The nice thing about a trotline is that it doesn’t need your full attention. You can just set it overnight and check on it the next day.

But, using a trotline has a major downside. First off, it’s hard to see the line when it’s submerged in the water. Also, if you are facing a larger body of water then you’ll need a boat to set the trotline. It’s most effective when suspended from one side of the water to the other.

How Do You Create a Trotline?

Setting up a trotline is as easy as taking candy from a baby. It’s made up of a heavy line that’s anchored to the bottom.

Different short lines, known as snoods, connect along this heavier line. Each snood is connected to the mainline with a swivel. This will involve a hook and bait. The water current makes the lines horizontally suspended, which displays the bait for bottom feeders.

You need to be mindful of the length and spacing of the snoods. Otherwise, they may get tangled in one another.


Ever had cousins you were constantly compared to growing up? Trotlines share that same relationship with droplines.

In this case, the difference is that instead of being fully submerged, a dropline is either suspended above the water line or floats on top of the water. Snoods are still secured the same way, but they have to be longer and hang straight into the water.

A dropline has an edge over a trotline because it doesn’t need moving water to work. You can use this method in almost any body of water, as long as you can secure the main line. Once droplines are set, you’re good to go because they don’t need constant monitoring.

Droplines work well if you’re aiming for natural fish locations. A disadvantage, though, is its visibility. Since everyone and their aunt Judy can see it in broad daylight, it’s possible for perps to steal your dropline and your catch when you’re in an SHTF scenario.


Wanna channel Tom Hanks’ character from Castaway? Start by trying your luck at spearfishing. You can make a fishing spear by adding a sharp, barb-pointed end to a strong piece of bone, wood, or metal.

When spearfishing, you need to compensate for refraction by aiming below the fish. Try it at night by torchlight so they won’t notice your shadow. This is one of the tougher fishing techniques to master, so don’t get disappointed if you can’t get it right the first time.

Hand Fishing

Who said you needed fancy-shmancy equipment to fish? When the going gets tough, use your mitts.

Hand fishing is a backcountry fishing technique you can try when you don’t have equipment. Also known as hogging, noodling, or traveling, this method involves capturing fish straight from their hiding spot with your bare hands.

Hand fishing is typically used to catch suckers and catfish, who like hiding in dark places. If the water’s a bit deep, you can stick your feet into the fish’s hiding place and draw them out that way. Be careful not to get bitten by cottonmouths or snapping turtles, though.

Fish Baskets

Fish baskets have been around for centuries. These primitive fish traps are constructed from different materials, like bamboo, vines, and sticks.

Traditionally, a fish basket would consist of a woven cylindrical-shaped cone that had a tinier cone in the middle. The tinier cone would have a gap in the center, which allows fish to swim inside. Once the fish gets trapped inside the larger cone—boom—they’d be ready for harvest.

Fish baskets are great for catching a lot of fish at once. Plus, they work well in every water source. You can also catch other types of marine life with a fish basket (think shrimps and freshwater crabs), but that depends on the design.

The bad thing about fish baskets? They’re on the bulky side and take a while to construct.

Bush Lines

Rigging up bush lines is one of the simplest survival fishing tactics you can learn. Basically, these are lines you tie to small branches that hang into the water.

This method is typically used when fishing in a stream or creek, but it also works well for lakes and ponds. The only difference would be a slight change in set up.

An advantage of bush lines is that they can be set up using only hooks and lines (a weight is just optional). You can also have several lines in the water at the same time. There are setbacks, though. It can be challenging to target specific areas and you need to check the lines pretty frequently.

How Do You Set Up Bush Lines?

Start by making a rough estimate of the water source’s depth. Once that’s done, tie a line to the branch and stretch a decent amount of string to touch the water. You want it to reach around a foot below the surface.

After that, add a small weight and hook on the end, place your bait, and drop it into the water. Go to the other spot and repeat the steps. When you’re finished, go back to the place you started from and check your work.

Fish Weirs

For thousands of years, fish weirs, known also as fish traps, have been used to catch fish in lakes, rivers, and oceans. Conventional weirs were made out of wood or stone. These primitive fish traps were built very large to catch plenty of fish at the same time.

In a survival situation, you can use this technique on a smaller scale to catch fish for food.

How Do You Make a Fishing Weir?

The concept behind a fishing weir is to make a trap with an opening that fish can swim into but can’t swim out of easily. This is why most fishing weirs have a V-shaped opening, with the broad part of the V pointing into the open water and compressing into the trap.

You can make a fish weir in a stream or lake using sticks that you push into the mud. The sticks make a fence that can keep the fish captive. If you place the sticks near together enough, even small fish would have a hard time escaping.

The trap’s entrance is formed using more sticks. This creates the “funnel” for the fish to swim into. You need to make the entrance big enough for nice-sized fish to get into the opening.

The last step is to add bait to the trap.

What Should Every Survival Fishing Kit Have?

We can’t discuss survival fishing without talking about building a fishing kit. When it comes to fishing in a survival sense, there are three kinds of situations.

The first is when you can remain at home (or at your bug out location). The second is when you’re on the go and relying on your bug out bag. The last is when you’re in a serious emergency and have nothing on you besides what’s inside your pockets.

For Your Home

If you’re able to stay at home, then it’s good to have all kinds of survival gear ready, including items for catching and trapping fish. While these stuff aren’t required for survival fishing, they will make it much easier for you.

Here are the items you should prepare in case SHTF:

  • Fishing bag (can be an over-the-shoulder bag or a backpack)
  • Small tackle box with hooks, grubs, lures, jigs, sinkers, spinners, and rubber worms
  • Multitool with pliers
  • Gill net
  • Hand net
  • Ice fishing supplies
  • At least one rod
  • A lot of braided 10-pound fishing line

Braided fishing line is expensive, but it’s worth the price. In contrast, a monofilament line (what you find in store-bought fishing kits) becomes weak over time. In a real survival scenario, you may have to keep using the same line again and again It pays to have something that can stay strong.

For Your Bug Out Bag

Your bug out bag should include a small fishing kit along with your essentials.

This kit should carry the following:

  • A few sinkers and swivels
  • A few artificial lures and rubber worms
  • Braided 10-pound fishing line
  • 40-50 hooks between size 12 and 8

Now, we assume that your bag has a knife, paracord, and multitool but if it doesn’t, then you should add these tools.

For Emergencies

Although you never want to be in the situation where you have none of the items above, you should know what to do just in case.

Here are some ways you can catch fish without tools:

Make a fishing hand line out of anything you have. This can be made from pieces of plastic, shoelaces, or threads of clothing. You can even go for braided foliage or twisted bark. Basically, use whatever’s available.

You can also create survival fish hooks with the stuff you have and the stuff you can find. Check your pockets for safety pins or paper clips. Or, look around the environment and see what you can use. Sharp sticks, small bones, and large thorns would be helpful.

Where Should You Fish?

Finding dinner is important, but so is staying safe. You may have to avoid areas that would force you to be out in the open or places that have too many people trapping fish.

You need to observe the waterways in your area as well. Are there ponds? What about rivers or streams? Visit these bodies of water and identify the creatures that live there. These can keep you fed in an emergency.

How Can You Find the Perfect Survival Fishing Spot Post-SHTF?

The answer is simple. Just think like a fish.

And if there’s anything you should know about thinking like a fish, it’s that fish love cover. Cover here means anything that can cover the water and offer hiding spots.

These can include structures like trees, logs, rocks, and weeds. Man-made structures like drain pipes, sea walls, and docks can also provide fish with cover.

Also, try to look out for natural underwater covers like underwater ledges, caves made from rocks, and undercut river banks.

You can look for fish in these areas as well:

  • Areas where water pools or turns still. Check behind large rocks or fallen trees.
  • Deep holes. Check for deeper holes in rivers and lakes where fish are concealed in the darker and deeper water.
  • Places of change. Observe changes in the water or a drop in water depth.
  • Where waterways come into contact. Find a place where streams flow into lakes or rivers. There’s typically cooler water and more oxygen here.

Are You Ready to Go Fish?

When it comes to survival fishing, you can’t just rely on your fishing kit. You need to know different fishing techniques. You also have to familiarize yourself with the different bodies of water and the kinds of fish in the area.

Knowing how to start a fire would help, too.

Once you master these bushcraft skills, you’ll be even more ready to face any SHTF situation.

Final Thoughts

Storing food for when SHTF will always be one of the top survival tips, but it’s not enough.

You have to be ready for any situation, including one where you may not even have access to your pile of emergency food. This is where knowing survival fishing will help you. It may just save your life when you’re in survival mode.

Have other survival fishing techniques to share? Drop them down below!

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