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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Survival Fishing

We've covered the base components of a universal fishing rig. While the parts we've covered in no way even approach all the possibilities in gear, what we covered works well in almost all fresh water to catch almost all species of fish. Beyond that, as Erin is fond of saying, fishing gear is as much about catching fishermen as fish.

Now we take a look at some practical, yet unconventional, fishing methods. I call them "survival fishing" because they allow the best chance of obtaining fish with the lowest possible energy spent, and in a survival situation that saved energy is vital.

All these methods hinge on one concept: leaving baited hooks anchored in the water while you do other tasks. In contrast to standard fishing methods, rods and reels are not normally used in any of these methods. Be advised, there may be laws regarding use of these techniques, so check before you use them.

Single Set Lines
A single set line consists of one baited hook on a line that is anchored to some point on the shore. Appropriate weight is placed on the line to hold the bait down, and the rig is thrown to the desired point in the water. Several of these can be set in an area to increase the chances of a successful catch. Look for eddys or other places where slow water meets fast water. Low tree branches, fallen logs, or bushes along the water's edge make excellent anchor points.

Trotlines are similar to a single set line in that one end is weighted while the other end is anchored to the shore. The big difference is that trotlines have multiple baited hooks along their length. A float is frequently used on the offshore end to hold the bait off the bottom a bit. 

They're great in large, slow moving waters where fish spread out some. The main line is weighted, and each hook is tied to a separate leader attached to the main line. With this setup, one trotline could possibly catch multiple fish. If you have enough gear, you could set a couple trotlines if the terrain permits.

Image from

Jugging is primarily used for catfish, and seems most popular in the South and Midwest. As the name implies, some kind of plastic jug (or pool noodle) is used as a float, with the baited hook suspended below it. Recreational juggers set and retrieve their jugs from a boat, and let them float freely. When a bait gets taken, the jug bobs and dances to very visibly indicate the hit. In a survival situation, or without a boat, jugs can be anchored in a manner similar to a single set line. The depth of each bait can be varied simply by changing the length of line below the jug.

Image from Georgia Outdoor News Forum

Gill Nets
Gill nets don't use hooks or lines at all, instead trapping fish by the gills as they try to swim through the netting. I've included them here because they are the ultimate in survival fishing: maximum reward for minimum effort. In fact, they are so efficient that their use is banned in everything except survival situations, so use these only in emergencies. 

Since I've never used one, I refer you to a great article on how to use them

All of these sets require regular checking for caught fish. Jugging makes checking simple, since the jugs can be seen from the shore and readily show whether a fish is on. Single set lines can also sometimes be checked visually. The only really good way to check a trotline is to pull it in and check each hook, and gill nets require you to lift them out of the water to check for (and retrieve) the fish.

Commonly used baits for these sets include cut fish, shrimp, and various organ meats from game or farm animals. Some commercially prepared baits also work. Baits with a strong scent can attract fish from further away, and scent will be the primary attractant of these rigs.

Used properly, these rigs will greatly stack fishing odds in your favor. When you're desperate for food, there are few ways to get meat that are more efficient.


The Fine Print

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