I shocked a lot of my redneck friends when I said “I’ve never been fishing.” And they looked at me with their jaw dropped. When you are born a city boy and are slowly making your way towards being a country boy these things happen. What surprised me was the lack of beginner guides to fishing on the internet. The majority of resources out there assume you have done some fishing and try to help improve your ability to fish so this guide for an existing fisher is probably not worth the read. For the city folk like me who research the hell out of things before trying it and are working to become country I will share what I have learned thus far. This guide will help get you ready for everything else out there.
Buying your gear.
We are gonna take the approach of learning how to fish with modern amenities and getting good with that to better understand how to do it without gear. The most essential piece of gear is a fishing rod and reel. You can buy them separate and attach them, or as a group. I went with a group deal for my first. Along with needing a pole you will need line and a basic tackle kit. Most rod and reel combos come with line pre attached and your may not need to buy line yet. Your essential tackle consists of Hooks, sinkers and bobbers. A good additive is to buy quick release hook attachments. They make it really easy to change lures and hooks as needed. Your extended tackle needs are lures and are used to try to catch fish without needing live bate.
Buying a Rod
The rod is predominately determined by the weight of the fish. If you are catching heavy catfish you will need a much longer and ticker rod to handle the weight. You will do better with a longer thicker rod as your general starting point as it will give you options. Something in the neighborhood of a 7-8ft rod can be used pretty much universal no matter what fish you target.
Buying a reel
There are all sorts of reels out there. A great starter is a closed reel, less to worry about you tap a trigger to release the line as you cast and tap again to stop. It’s pretty much a one direction reel you cast it out and reel it back in. The other is a open face spinner reel this has a lever you flip to cast out and flip to stop it. You can reel it out or in and is two directional. This is a more advanced reel and your better general purpose reel. I personally am still using a closed reel at this time.
Buying your tackle
Every fishing pole will need line (if not included), a bobber, sinker and hook. You can get good general fishing kits. The key to stringing your pole and getting ready is all based off the type of fish you are looking to catch. Catfish for instance are bottom feeders, that are easier to catch at night time, so a glow in the dark bobber will be a better choice also you may want more and heavier sinkers on your line. From personal experience on of the most important aspects of your bobber is making sure you can see it clearly. Also you will want to select a bobber that’s not to big versus the weight of the fish otherwise the bites from the small fish will be hard to see. Hooks are again based off the size and type of fish you are targeting.
Lures are a great way to avoid buying live bait and great to put in your car with your pole if you want to do impromptu fishing from time to time. You know the kind where you pull over and fish in a stream or pond in the middle of no where. The type of lure depends on the type of fish you are targeting. Live bait is better then most lures as it creates an attractive target for your intended fish. You want bait that wiggles and looks lively to the fish. Also keep in mind that to catch a big fish you need big bait. Think about it would you stop to pick up a penny or a twenty dollar bill? When I went out we used live minnows, when using these guys you will need a minnow bucket and an aerator to try and keep them from dying too quickly. The key to baiting the line with minnows is to pierce the hook below the back bone about mid way down.
Misc Other tools
You will want a pair of needle nose pliers which you can buy at walmart in the tool section for $2 or you can get something like a leatherman wave and use it in your bug out bag as well. This will be used to get hooks out of the fish and to attach sinkers. A stringer is important if you plan to catch and eat the fish. A good super sharp fillet knife will be needed to clean your fish as well. A fishing net can be very useful to help you transition a fish from your line to a stringer but you can do with out one when catching smaller fish.
The Law, being kept in check by the man
Look into your local fishing regulations. In most private land it’s no biggy to fish without a license, however public land and streams that can be a bad idea. In Ohio fishing without a license can result in a $180 fine and confiscation of your fishing gear. Oh if you are fishing out of the back of your truck they will confiscate it too. So a $20 a year license is worth the peace of mind. As well beware of how many you can keep, what type and the size. If a game warden checks you make sure you are compliant. In a bug out survival situation this won’t matter but until then following the law it’s easier and cheaper.
Fish brained habits
Like hunting you want to put yourself into the mind of a fish. Know your fish‘s habits and patterns determine how to take advantage of their instincts to catch your fish. Key things to know about your target fish are the depth they tend to swim at, their weight, and the bait they like. There are many other factors you can look at but these are the most simple and important ones. They dictate your lures, line length type of bobber, time of day etc.
Stringing your pole
When you look at the pole you will notice a lot of circle loops along the pole, those should be downward on the pole when you are holding it outward like you had casted out. You want to pass the line through all the loops. After this your first step is to connect a hook. I like the quick release hook adapters at the end of the string. These act like safety pins in how they open and close and allow you to easy change hooks and lures at will. Next up is your sinker. These are little lead weights to help you cast the line and get the line to the right depth in the water. These crimp on the line. Keep in mind if you change sinks that you can save them to be melted down and used to cast bullets for ammo reloading.
After the sinker your next item to attach is your bobber. Select the bobber by the size of the fish you target. A large bobber meant for catfish probably won’t bob much if you get a bite from a blue gill or crappies. When you go to attach a bobber typically there is a place to press down on the top and bottom it exposes a hook for the line to go on. It’s recommended to wrap the line a few times around these hooks to help it from coming undone. Keep in mind you want to set the length of line after the bobber based off the depth of the water and where your fish are likely to be swimming.
It’s funny to see a city boy cast a pole. It’s actually very simple but I had one piece of knowledge missing preventing me from a confident and joyfull fishing trip. With the trigger on a closed reel, you simply tap it when your about to flick your wrist out in the cast. I though you would hold the trigger and let go when you were done casting. That resulted in the line splashing down right in front of me along the bank. Damned if that didn’t catch a blue gill off that crappy cast. Beginner’s luck they say. There are a lot of resources out there that talk about a best cast or where to cast, etc. I’ll let them do that for now, until I can dispense good advice. I’ve at least saved you from my 20 minutes of frustrations and short casts.
The First bite
So your bobber just went down in the water a little bit and back up and maybe you felt it in the pole. This means you have a bite. The key is to do a little tug on the pole. This tug sets the hook in the fish. Without it the fish is likely to take your bait and run like a looter in WROL. If done right, as you reel the fish in you will feel resistance. If it’s a big fish the resistance will be stronger. For catfish or Bass you won’t feel resistance, rather a fight! When this happens you want to wear the fish down by a mix of reeling in and loosening up a little bit. Too much direct force and your line might break or the fish will break free.
When you catch your fish that you plan to keep the stringer is used to tie and hold them. It’s a long string with a key chain loop on one end and a spear like device on the front. When you catch the fish you will take this stringer and pierce it through the gills/side of the fish’s mouth area and for the first fish loop back through the ring. Then you attach each additional fish as you catch them. Next you want to attach the string to a limb or something on the bank and put the fish back in the water until the end of your adventure. This way they aren’t dead and rotting by the time you leave. They will splash and thrash some for the rest of the trip, but that reminds you they are there.
Killing and cleaning the fish.
Yes the fish will die there really isn’t a great way for them to die, you could use ice to try and put them to sleep or just pull them out of the water and stop breathing. Fact is it sucks either way so I just take them out of the water it’s a shorter time to death then a slow cold death. And no a .22lr to the face probably isn’t a good way to go much to my dismay. When I was done fishing I got home around 11pm and was too tired to clean the fish so I was trying to figure out what to do with the fish until the morning. I found it was fine to put the fish on ice and clean them the next day. Some people freeze them whole and clean them when they use them. It’s up to you. Putting them on ice was a good choice and allowed me to get some sleep before the fish fry.
The next morning the fun of cleaning the fish began. With some fish like the crappie I caught you would typically have to scale the fish, and for a few of them I did. To de-scale you don’t need a fancy scaling tool though they can help, you cansimply use a large spoon and rake it backward against the grain on the scales and they will fly off everywhere. However I found a great way to fillet the fish and avoid scaling.
The trick I used was to take the fillet knife cut downward right behind the side fins through the ribs down to the back bone. Then turn the knife and go horizontally along the backbone through the rib cage and down at about the tail. Don’t completely cut that flap off leave a hinge around the tail, and flip the fillet outward. Then use the fillet knife to cut out the rib cage you will see on the fillet, then take the fillet knife along the bottom close to the skin area and when all is said and done you have a large chunk of meat. Do this to both side and you will find it a lot easier leaving you with a fish head and guts to throw out. Unless you want to make some fish head stew.
I was actually not sure what to expect to cleaning the fish and how I would react to the fish guts and cleaning process, surprisingly I didn’t mind it because I was focused on the end goal of eating. Keep in mind in a survival fishing situation these guts and fish heads could be used as bait for more fish or in a deadfall trap to catch and animal.
A Fish Fry Finish.
The best part of my first fishing trip was the fish fry afterwards. I picked up simple fish fry breading at walmart and some vegetable oil. It’s amazing how good fresh fish can be. Since I don’t live on a coast it reminded me of my trip to the Boston area and how good all the seafood was. When eating the fish, keep in mind of any health advisories related mercury or other pollutants in the areas you fish. Ohio division of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the EPA publish information on which bodies of waters and fish to avoid. In many cases a fish fry every once and a while is no big deal no matter the pollution. But if you made it every day it might mean some health issues. Believe me though the best way to end your fishing adventure is to eat what you caught.
While I have a long way to go before I can tell you how to catch a record bass or catfish. Or enter into a sponsorship deal with Rapala hopefully this beginner guide will help those who came from a family like mine whose concept of nature was the nature channel on TV.
From: Christopher de Vidal
I recommend that city boys (like myself) not seek to depend upon standing on the bank with a pole (the proper term is “angling”) for food in a crisis. Most of the time there’s a better way to obtain fish than with a rod and reel. Allow me to tell a little fish story and offer what may be a better solution.
My last camping trip I attempted to re-learn the fishing skills my grandpa taught me as a boy. He had only taken me fishing a few times when I was a child and he wasn’t super-instructive when he went, so I remember a few tips.
So recently I decided to beef up this skill for TEOTWAWKI. I bought the best-rated fresh fishing book on Amazon. (What Fish Don’t Want You to Know by Frank Baron) I planned a camping trip to the Suwannee river (wayyy down upon it!) and discovered that bream fish are common there, plus it would be their best fishing season, and so these should be the easiest to catch. Googled everything I could on bream.
We went camping. Spent hours fishing and only caught nine fish. Of those, only two were eating sized. The rest were fingerlings that got tossed back.
So after much expense and time and energy our entire group of six people only caught about two hundred calories. Maybe if we’d kept the fingerlings I could count six hundred calories. That’s one hundred calories per person. No telling how many calories we’d burned and I’d forgotten to count the number of hours. And fetching the bait — crickets — might have consumed more calories if we didn’t buy them in a store. And we lost about fifteen hooks from snags and such.
I don’t think this is “beginner’s bad luck.” I saw pics from that campsite of proud fishermen taking stringers about two feet long with approximately fifteen small fish on them. I thought, if that’s a good catch I must have been doing pretty good.
If I invest many more hours I might increase my catch rate and/or get larger fish. And I might just do that. But would I want to solely depend upon fishing in a TEOTWAWKI situation? Negative. The hours spent angling could be better served obtaining easier calories.
Fishermen who bring in enough to live upon tend to use not poles, but nets and traps. Therefore for my next fishing trip I want to set traps and build dams in small streams. I’ve seen these in survival manuals, and this survivalist said he knew of a gentleman who built a trap from branches in a few hours and _lived_ off that alone. Watch it being built here:
The greatest advantage of trapping and damming is you’re not stuck on the bank all day. That YouTube channel also recommends inexpensive yo-yo traps which are like a hybrid between trapping and angling on the bank; You place a line in like an angler but you can walk away because the yo-yo can snap and reel in fish when tugged on. They also build a free alternative to the yo-yo which may in fact be better in most situations:
I had bought the one and only gill net on Amazon but promptly returned it when I read a review that came in just after I’d purchased it. Said the holes were far too small for anything but fingerlings and that you could build the same for less than $10 from nets from your fishing store. I’d since found gill net suppliers online and I hope to build my own once I learn what size I need:
One can also build a dam in a river’s eddy or across a small creek out of stones that will supposedly catch some. Again these let you walk away and handle other tasks while your trap works for you.
If trapping, netting and damming lives up to its promise, it’s a way to work smarter and not harder. I’m not ruling out angling but I’d consider it just another tool in the toolbox. I’d love to hear from other survivalists with experience in angling/trapping/netting/damming. That YouTube channel has some great videos and I hope to try out their techniques. Here’s the direct link:
Good stuff. God bless!
I absolutely agree you are better off with nets, yo yo reels and traps, so you can walk away and forage while the calories catch themselves. However I think it’s definitely a good idea to learn how to fish. Ultimately for me it was about the experience and if it was a survival situation I would have been stretching a net from one bank to the next. As well I probably would have skipped filleting and would have just wrapped the caught fish in mud and thrown them on the hot coals until the mud hardened peel it off and dig in. Sigma 3 has some great videos online.
I’m hopping the near future to make my way out to the country and become a homesteader at which time a stocked pond would be great for some joy fishing. There is no doubt fishing can be a great way to take your mind off your stress.
From: Doug Crawford
We used to use a hand crank magneto from an old crank phone. It stuns the fish and they’ll float to the top. It’s illegal, but if your fishing for survival worrying about a ticket is way down the priority list.