How can you catch a fish without a rod and reel?

Here Fishy, Fishy: Some Fishing Techniques

HowStuffWorks 2008

When it comes to fishing­ without a rod and reel, you're pretty much only limited by your own imagination. Lots of different techniques can be tailored to fit a variety of situations -- it just requires a little creativity to see how one can work for yours. Here are the basics on a few strategies you can try:

Spearing: Spears, crafted from long sticks, saplings and the like, often prove to be very effective. It's possible to sharpen the thicker end into a point or lash a knife onto it, although many survival gurus recommend forming the end into prongs. Slicing the spearhead and wedging the sharpened prongs apart with a bit of wood or vine not only gives you a wider margin of error, it also means you can both skewer the fish and trap them in between the prongs. Remember to harden the points in hot embers, and securely lash the base so your spear doesn't crack down the handle.

Once you're ready to go, find a promising site and slowly insert your spearhead into the water. This helps cut down on refraction, but since it won't fix things entirely, you'll likely want to aim a little low while you're getting the hang of it. Keep your shadow clear and your spear angled advantageously. With a strong thrust, pin the fish to the bottom and reach down to grab your dinner.

Trapping: Looking for a less hands-on method? Traps can be the perfect answer if you don't have time to dawdle; they epitomize the endless versatility of fishing. On a beach, you can utilize the tide to trap fish in augmented rocky pools -- or make your own underwater traps from scratch. In a stream, you can rig up woven twig fences to corral fish into holding pens. You can even put some bait at the netted-off end of a narrow hollow log -- since fish can't swim backwards, they'll be trapped. Carefully haul up the log, and it's time to feast.

While building a trap is often easier if you have some store-bought supplies like rope or netting, in most places, you can find suitable materials in the wilderness around you. Twigs, along with vines and reeds, can all be woven into water soluble walls, and sticks can structure the trap. The key is to make it enticing to enter and hard to get out. Slap down some bait and add features like inward-facing sharpened sticks as a bit of discouragement for those attempting to escape.

Set Lines: Set lines are another way to fish from afar. Fish hooks and gorges can be fashioned from just about anything: wood, bone, nail, safety pin, thorn, needle, wire, sea shell, you name it. If you don't have a knife to carve and sharpen wooden hooks, use a rock with sharp edges.

Then you need to rig up your lines; there's lots of ways to do that. You can string a main line across some water between two trees, or for smaller operations you can fasten it between two sticks shoved in the mud. Dangling off the main line, all those hooks you crafted will be secured to secondary lines, and several fish can be baited at once. You can even set up bobbers to monitor drifting set lines. The sky's the limit, and with any luck, a couple of lines will be waiting with some fresh fish fillet when you check on your progress.

The information below is an absolute must if you're the kind of person who loves to go on a hike, but is always wandering off from the group.


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More Great Links


  • Bennett, Oliver. "How to tickle a trout." The Independent. 10/24/2004. (11/14/2008)
  • "Fishing Devices." (11/14/2008)
  • "Fishing for Survival." The Survival Expert. (11/14/2008)
  • Sherwood, Frank. "How to Make and Use a Survival Fish Spear." The Tracker. 1983. (11/14/2008)
  • "Survival Fishing." (11/14/20)
  • "Survival Fishing." Survival and Self-Reliance Studies Institute. (11/14/2008)