The Basics of Survival Fishing
Next to water, food is the most essential necessity any human needs to survive. Being in a disaster scenario is terrible on its own, let alone if you are hungry and have run out of food. During most disaster scenarios your local grocery store should still have enough food to sustain its local population, even if the items may not be what you are used to eating. However, if stores can’t be gotten to or the food does run out, fishing is a great way to get supplement any remaining food preps.
The world is littered with rivers, lakes, ponds, bays, estuaries, and about 372,000 miles of shorelines globally. The world is covered by over 70% water, so it is safe to say fish are an abundant food source. If you live near any one of these waterways catching fish can be a valuable way to extend your food supplies.
Catching fish is often a quick way to get an easy meal, if you know what you are doing. Fish can easily be retrieved from most bodies of water, such as rivers, ponds, and alpine lakes. Knowing how to fish in times of emergencies like natural disasters could be a lifesaver.
Why Choose Fishing?
A natural disaster or other less anticipated emergency can occur for an extended period of time. If shelves become bare and you do not live in an area known for hunting; fishing your local waters may be your best chance to stock up on your animal protein.
Easy to Catch
Fishing is not that difficult, even a novice, if tried for long enough could catch a fish. When preparing, a quick browse on the internet can get anyone started. But the goal of the avid prepper is to be fully prepared and knowing how to fish should be at the top of the knowledge list.
If you set up where the fish visibly are, even with little to no tools, you should be able to catch your dinner. A rod and reel here, a hook and bait there, or some good ‘ol quick reflexes and you are bound to catch something. It may not be the quickest at first, but once a system has been learned catching fish will be a breeze.
Fishing also takes minimal effort making it quite literally the definition of easy. When using a net you can quite literally set it up across the span of a river, leave it, and come back at dinner time to see what you caught. If using hook and line you can simply cast your hook out and set the rod in a rod holder until the line tightens to conserve energy.
Plenty of Fish in the Sea
This is a literal fact: there are plenty of fish in the sea...and rivers…and lakes. The population of any 1 species may vary due to overfishing, migration, or a bad spawn year; but in general terms there are plenty of edible species in most locations.
On average, at a time, the fish in the sea are estimated to be towards the north of 3 trillion, yes 3 trillion. Granted not all of them are edible because of poison, lack of access, etc. but for the purposes of survival; there is always something for anyone who has the necessary skills and knows where to look.
Easy to Fashion Fishing Gear
Most tools and gear needed to fish are easily found or fashioned. The tools and materials required to go fishing are easy to acquire, fashion, and use. During a disaster scenario sophisticated equipment will likely be unavailable. However, there are always other ways to go about it, think MacGyver. There are many ways to fish, and this versatility makes fishing invaluable when shit hits the fan.
A fishing net can be made out of items like plastic bags, rope, string, lashes of wood, and more. A hook and line can be made in a pinch from a stick, whatever rope/string you have, and a soda can pop top. A pointy stick, when wielded properly can be a perfect fishing spear too. Then there are always your 2 bare hands. While these are just a few examples, when you are hungry enough, fish can be caught using all kinds of methods.
Basic Fishing Tools & Gear
While if you are skilled enough you may be able to catch fish with nothing but your two hands. However, more often than not most people would choose to have some tools to help. There are some basic items that make fishing much easier whether for recreation, trade, or like in this case, emergencies.
Everyone, even those who particularly don't care about fishing, have probably heard of fishing line. Most times, your new reel might come with a roll or two. But it never hurts to always have extras, especially if you live near water and want to be prepared. Fishing line come in different strengths, called ‘test’. The rule of thumb is to use stronger and heavier fishing lines in rough water conditions. Keeping at least 100 yards of line on your reel is always recommended.
When in an emergency situation without any true fishing line there are ways to build your own like: plastic bags ripped apart and made into ‘rope’ could work, using string from your clothes, and more.
Along with fishing lines, it would be best to also stock up on fishing hooks. They come in different assortments, depending on the size of fish you're after. If you're a beginner, single hooks are a good place to start, but in an emergency, any hook will do. Hooks can be by themselves or part of what any angler would call ‘artificial bait’. These artificial baits look like works, minnows, etc.; but can feature a hook of their own, killing 2 birds with 1 stone.
Real metal fishing hooks may not always be around when you need them. If you are hungry and need to fish for your next meal you can use the soda can pop top as a hook, fashion a paperclip into a hook, among other household items.
Bait is what you attach to the end of the fishing hook to lure in the fish. Seeing as different types of fish are attracted to different types of meals, you'll want to bait your hook according to the fish you're after when applicable. But in an emergency, even an empty hook can get you something if you know how to drag and pop it right. The two popular live baits are minnows and worms. Others include other bait fish, corn, squished bread, marshmallows, small frogs, grubs, fish eggs, larvae, leeches, or pieces of hotdog. While not all of these are recommended due to the danger of harming the fish’s insides, when catching fish for food feel free to use anything that will get that fish on your hook!
Most people going fishing will buy fresh or frozen bait from a bait shop on their way to the docks, but in an emergency, I doubt a bait shop will be on your mind. You can catch your own bait fish, chop them up and use them as bait or as mentioned above other household food may be used as bait like bread and marshmallows.
Nets are great for catching multiple fish at once. For those looking to stock up or catch more than 1 fish to help feed their family, a fishing net may be your best option. You can set up a drift net to capture your fish as you do other things. If you are looking for immediate gratification you can use a cast net that involves you tossing these circular nets out with swinging momentum to land over a school of fish, hopefully capturing multiple fish. If you live in an area with slow moving fish or shellfish using a hand net could be useful too.
If you don’t have any nets in your preps, like fishing line, nets can be fashioned out of many other products. You can use your extra fishing line, plastic bags, climbers rope, lashings of wood, and other flexible materials to make your own net.
A spear gun or handheld spear make great fishing tools. Spear guns obviously uses the least amount of energy and comes in handy for the novice fisherman. These guns are primarily used for underwater spear fishing while a handheld spear is easier to use when spear fishing from the shoreline.
In a pinch a very point stick or a broken golf club handle would do the trick. Anything sturdy enough to go through the flesh of a fish or the shell of a crab would be useful.
Boat or Personal Watercraft
Obviously having a boat would make getting to the fish incredibly easy. Having a boat will also open up the radius where you could catch fish. In an emergency most people would be stuck to fishing from the shore or as far as they could safely swim.
Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and surfboards would also help enlarge the area in which you can travel to catch your fish.
Popular fish to eat
The whole point of fishing to sustain your food intake during an emergency is to catch edible species. Good for humans, most catchable fish are edible. In an emergency most parts of the fish can be eaten to extend the useability of your catch like their heart, livers, head meat and eyes.
Note: If you are unsure if a fish is edible (or if you are allergic) cook it up thoroughly, then put a small piece in your mouth, letting it sit. If there no reaction like swelling or itching swallow it, waiting several hours. After a few hours evaluate if it upsets your stomach or causes any other reactions like face swelling or hives. If no reactions try a little more, increasing your intake as you continue to feel healthy.
Also spelled as pan fish or pan-fish, panfish refers to an edible fish that typically doesn't outgrow the size of a frying pan. These days, however, anglers also use the term to describe any small freshwater catch that will fit into a pan. Including sunfish, crappies, yellow perch, etc.
Best States to Catch Panfish: Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Maryland, North Dakota, and more
Commonly known as robalo or sergeant fish. They grow to be about 1.6 ft. (50 cm) and live 15 to 21 years. The best baits to attract a snook are pinfish, shrimp, or finger mullet. Snook make for good table fair. Southwest Florida is actually a top location to target this species.
Best States to Catch Snook: primarily Florida and scarcely in Georgia and the Carolinas
Bass can be caught in freshwater and saltwater. From largemouth bass to black sea bass, there are several varieties. Colloquially referred to as America's fish, it features a firm flesh and has a rich flavored taste. It's great for pan-frying and grilling.
Best States to Catch Bass: Michigan, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Carolina, New York, among others
Salmon is often synonymous with Alaska. However, many may not realize that other states offer Salmon fishing too. Some states like Colorado, South Dakota, and Utah stock their waters with a variety of salmon. Maine and the Great Lake States offer some natural Atlantic Salmon fishing as well. One thing that reigns true more times than not is Salmon fishing is most productive in the northern regions, including Canada.
If you can get your hands on some, Salmon is a great option for your diet, especially during SHTF scenarios. It contains necessary vitamins, minerals, and essential omega-3s. It's rich in flavor is palatable to most people, even children. Salmon is also a versatile fish, able to be cooked in various ways, and is hard to mess up.
Best States to Catch Salmon: Alaska, New York, Washington, Maine, New Hampshire, and more
Tuna is an easy favorite and, by far, one of the most common fish on the list. When possible, try to limit eating varieties like yellowfin, albacore, and ahi tuna because of their high Mercury content. However, in a survival situation, feeding your stomach and muscles are more important than mercury content.
Unlike many fish, Tuna is an easily stock-able prep supply with the variety of flavors, canned or bagged. This fish is known for being a part of everyone’s hurricane kit.
The down side of targeting Tuna? Fishing for tuna often requires a motor boat. While it isn’t unheard of to catch yellowfin off the shoreline, most tuna species are found several miles offshore. A boat big enough to sustain some waves and with enough power and gas capabilities to make it offshore and back would help greatly.
Best US Waters to Catch Tuna: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico
Also known as Red Drum, Redfish are among the most common game fish in the southeastern United States. These fish can be seen in Atlantic waters from Florida up to Massachusetts and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida over to Texas and Northern Mexico.
Redfish can be caught from shore, in channels, rivers, bays and estuaries. For those who are not avid fisherman, they have likely never eaten red drum. You will not find this species on a restaurant menu. Redfish make great table fare, whether seafood places thing so or not. When cooked fully, they are perfectly safe to eat and are quite delicious. Its firm meat means you can cook it any way you wish.
Best States to Catch Redfish: Louisiana, Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, and Alabama
Red Snapper can be found in the Gulf of Mexico and along the eastern coast of North, Central, and South America. Like Tuna, you will likely need a boat to catch red snapper. They are most commonly found in waters 30-620 ft deep.
Snapper is one fish species that people like to cook whole. Their diet of shrimp, quid, and octopus make them a very tasty species. Red snapper can also be poached, baked, and broiled; but it makes for a particularly tasty meal when it's properly spiced and fried or grilled whole.
Best States to Catch Snapper: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas
There are several species of grouper. Because of it’s tropical waters, Grouper is primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys. Goliath grouper has been known to be caught in Atlantic waters near Massachusetts and Maine. Juvenile Grouper will remain close to shore and in shallow holes. The adults like deep water structures and ledges in waters 60ft and deeper.
The Grouper species, as a whole, has a really mild flavor. It mild white flesh, like most fish, means you can cook it any way you would like. The meat easily absorbs marinades and dressings, making for a delicious meal, even for picky kids in a SHTF scenario. This is one fish you do not want to cook with the skin on, though.
Best States to Catch Grouper: Massachusetts & Maine to Florida &Texas, among other states in-between
There are several species of Trout. There are freshwater and saltwater trout species. Trout is one of the most widely distributed fish. They can be found throughout the US including areas like Washington, Wyoming, Arkansas, Vermont, North Carolina, Florida and more. Cast nets and hook and line are the most popular way to catch these fish. Trout like to stick close to the shore for the most part. They can be found in lakes, rivers, creeks, inlets, marshes, and drop offs.
Best States to Catch Trout: Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, New York, Florida, and many more
While not a fish, Crab is a plentiful choice to supplement your food in a survival scenario. Crabs are found in saltwater and freshwater waterways throughout the United States. Alaska offers the larger breads like King and Snow Crab. The west coast are most known for the Dungeness and blue crabs, but don’t be fooled, the east coast boasts just as much, if not more blue crab fishing. Maryland is known for its annual blue crab harvests. Florida is also known for its year-round blue crab fishing, as well as its seasonal Stone Crab fishing.
Saltwater crabs often stay in the shallows near marshy areas like rivers, bays and inlets. Another good thing about crabs? You can catch them from land with nets or out at sea with crab traps. When targeting crab from land focus on nearby structures like piers, docks, jetties, beached logs, boulders, and grassy lands.
Crab is packed with protein and has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. Boil them, roast them over an open fire, or grilled; as long as the meat is fully cooked they are safe to eat.
Best States to Catch Blue Crab: Maryland, Alaska, Florida, California, Oregon, Washington, Louisiana, and more
Oysters & Scallops
In a SHTF scenario Oysters can be a great food source because they can be eaten grilled, fried, and especially raw. If no electricity or fire-starting capabilities are accessible clean water oysters are safe to be eaten raw, unlike many seafood species straight out of the water. Oysters bloom in the millions along the coasts of northern states like Maine, Washington, California, and New Jersey. However, southern states like California, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and even South Carolina offer decent blooms as well.
Scallops are another shelled species that make for great eating. Florida is the most widely known US location to dive for Scallops. However, place like Oregon and Maine offer some good scallop dives as well. Scallops are often found in waters between 4-6 feet near grassy waters. Scallops are best seared over high heat or broiled under high heat until opaque all the way through.
Best States to Catch Shellfish: Washington, Louisiana, Florida, Rhode Island, California, New Jersey, and more Seaside States
The northeastern coastal states offer the most abundant Lobster harvesting, especially Maine. The Californian and Florida coasts are among the other 2 most popular lobster locations. The downside is lobsters live offshore in the deeper waters. It is not unheard of to have to go 10+ miles offshore to find this species hunkered down near deep-water reefs and structures.
Lobster is commonly prepared by steaming or boiling. Most people have tried lobster, its sweet meat is often liked by even picky children, making it a safe bet for when food is running low and you are trying to get your kid to eat in a SHTF scenario.
Best States to Catch Lobster: Maine, Massachusetts, California, Florida
Ways to Cook your Catch
Once you catch your seafood the next step is to eat it. You want to, however, avoid eating raw as raw fish, unless stored and prepared properly is not meant to be eaten raw and can host a deadly parasite. It is always recommended to cook your catch regardless of the species. However, in a SHTF scenario you may not be able to cook anything, in which case you will need to measure the odds.
Depending on the state of power during the emergency, you may have to cook with electricity or not.
You can use an oven to bake or broil your catch. The thickness of the fillets will determine the oven temperature and the time it will take to bake. Generally, most fish are usually ready in 15 to 20 minutes at 350 - 400 °F.
Set your electric grill to the desired temperature and place your seasoned fillet on the grill rack. Grill until the meat flakes easily. This will be the signal that your fish is cooked thoroughly.
Cooking fish in a pan or pot on the stove is one of the most common ways to cook seafood. You ca pan-fry, sear, stew, or boil your catch. Most filleted fish is either pan-fried or stewed. Scallops are often best seared. Crabs and Lobster are generally boiled to perfection.
Breaded or Battered & Fry
This cooking method requires specialty appliances like a deep or air fryer. To add a crispy coating to your fish, bread or batter your fillets and place them in your desired cooker. When the coating turns a golden brown your fish should be ready to devour.
Propane, Wood, or Charcoal Grill
Much like an electric grill, prepare your grill as needed. Then, place your seafood on the racks and cook until the meat is flaky and cooked all the way through.
This option resembles baking or the stovetop method. The only difference here is you do it directly over hot coal or fire. You can place the fish in a pan or inside a piece of tinfoil. When cooking over direct fire you fish can be ready in as quick as 5 to 10 minutes.
When the situation is dire and you need a way to supplement your food supply, fish are plentiful and can be found all over the world. There is a reason the moniker ‘There are plenty of fish in the sea’ was coined. Most species are edible and can be cooked in all kinds of ways, with or without power. Other considers include fishing is often safer than hunting a wild land mammal, especially if you are a novice at either method.