Here’s the thing. Roughly two-thirds of this planet is covered in water, right? And in the vast majority of cases, there is food swimming around in those bodies of water. Oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, you name it, there’s probably protein there somewhere. While you could try pulling one strand out of the inside of your paracord boot laces and then whittle a hook from a tree branch, wouldn’t it be easier to just have a few of the basic fishing essentials with you?
Hunting is very labor intensive. Trapping is an art that simply cannot be learned in any other way other than through hours and days and weeks of practice. Most of us, though, have gone fishing a time or two and probably landed something during most outings. Sure, it may not have been a prize catch worthy of being mounted on the wall. But, even small fish can provide sustenance, especially if you add a few of them together into the stew pot.
There may very well be smaller fishing kits than this one out there. I haven’t found one, but I haven’t looked all that hard, either. This kit is small enough to fit into a pants pocket and be hardly noticed until you need it. It weighs in at just a couple of ounces, depending on what you store inside it. All told, once the components are gathered, the kit takes maybe 10 minutes to complete.
The size of the bottles doesn’t matter. Just make sure the tops are the same size. For the credit card, you could use an old gift card or even a fake credit card you may have received in the mail. Once you see how it all goes together, you might find you have something else lying around that could work, too.
“Hunting is very labor intensive. Trapping is an art that simply cannot be learned in any other way other than through hours and days and weeks of practice.”
Start by using the hacksaw to cut off the tops from the soda bottles. Cut just behind the plastic ridge. While you’re welcome to use a different tool for the cutting, I’ve found a hacksaw works better than a Dremel tool and other such powered devices.
Use the sandpaper to clean up the cut edge on both bottle tops. They don’t need to be perfectly smooth but the flatter and more even they are, the better your end result will be.
Place one of the bottle tops on the credit card, draw around it with the marker, and cut out the circle with the scissors. Neatness counts, so take your time to do it right. Cut just inside the circle you drew so you end up with as little overlap as possible.
Plug in the glue gun and once it is heated, run a bead of glue along the outside of the plastic circle. You aren’t running caulk along a backsplash here, keep that bead thin.
Center one of the bottle tops on the circle and press it down onto the glue. Hold it in place for a few moments to allow the glue to set. Turn the disk and bottle top over and run another bead of glue on the other side of the disk. Press and hold the second bottle cap in the glue for a few seconds until it’s set. Allow to set overnight, if possible.
Survival fishing often comes down to quantity rather than quality. Rather than wasting time and effort trying to find and land a monster bass, you’ll probably be better off with a handful of undersized bluegill or crappie. The idea here is to not enter into a calorie deficit by expending more energy catching the food than you’ll derive from eating it.
Personally, I have far better luck with live bait than I do artificial, at least when I’m fishing for panfish and such. You can find worms and bugs under rocks and fallen logs. When using worms, put just a small piece on the hook rather than wrapping the entire nightcrawler on there. Reason being, many fish have fairly small mouths and they’ll never get that fully baited hook past their lips. Instead, they’ll just nibble away on the bait.
Mornings and evenings tend to be the best times for catching freshwater fish. If you’re forced by circumstance to send your lines out in the middle of the day, concentrate your efforts on shaded spots or areas that you can see have fallen logs or other structures under the water. That’s where many types of fish like to hang out when the sun is shining.
If you’ll be in one spot for a day or so and you have a good-sized body of water, such as a river or lake, consider setting up a trotline. Basically, this is a line stretched over the water with several smaller baited lines, called snoods, attached to it and going down into the water. Trotlines are illegal in many areas but if you’re in a position where you’re doing true survival fishing, you’d probably welcome a visit from the local DNR office.
At this point, you have the container for your fishing kit. You could stop here and use it for any number of small items, such as medication or cotton balls for tinder. In fact, you could omit the plastic disk and just glue the bottle tops together, giving you a single container rather than a dual one. But, we’re here for a fishing kit so let’s keep moving.
Between the soda cap and the plastic ridge is a plastic ring that was once attached to the cap. Use a razor blade to cut that ring off. Grab your spool of fishing line and tie the end to the bottle top. Wind the line around and around the bottle top. When I made my first kit, I fit over 50 feet of line on there and had plenty of room for more. I highly suggest you use braided fishing line, rather than monofilament. It is a little more expensive, but worth the price. When you unspool monofilament, it stays sort of coiled up. That’s called memory and braided line doesn’t have it. I find braided line ties easier and holds tighter than monofilament, too.
When you have enough line, crimp a split-shot sinker to the end and drop it into the bottle top, then put the cap on. This serves to prevent the line from unraveling while keeping it easy to use. If you have them available, add in a couple of small, uninflated balloons. These work well as improvised floats or bobbers.
Drop some hooks, sinkers, and jigs into the other side. I like to stuff in a cotton ball or two, as well. Not only does this help reduce the little bit of noise from the contents jingling around, it makes the kit multipurpose as now you have a bit of tinder, too.
As for hooks, go with an assortment but keep in mind that it is far easier to catch a large fish with a small hook than it is to catch a small fish with a large hook.
To use the kit, you could try hand fishing, which is basically dropping the line into the water without the use of a pole. Be forewarned, though, that the line is thin and it can hurt your hand if a fish takes the bait and runs with it. Another option is to unravel the amount of line you’ll need, drop the baited end into the water, loop the line around a branch several times, and keep the remaining line wound on the kit, which is held in your hand. This way, you don’t need to cut any of the line.
When you get a bite, pull back on the branch to set the hook, then slowly back away from the water, wrapping the line around the stick as you go. This will pull the fish toward shore, hopefully without dislodging the hook.
For This Project, You’ll Need:
- Two plastic soda bottles
- Hot glue gun
- One expired credit card
- Fish hooks
- Fishing line
- Split-shot sinkers
Fishing tackle, at least the kind that you’d need for survival fishing, is quite small. As such, it is easy to stash little bits here and there so you always have some with you, no matter what.
Bracelet: Paracord bracelets are all the rage these days. Many of them on the market today are sold with survival gear built right in, including hooks and fishing line. Or, spend a little time learning how to make the bracelet
yourself and incorporate into it the gear you want. Either way, be sure you know how to unravel the cord for when you need it.
Hat Band: Many hats have a fabric ring on the inside. Take a few hooks and embed the barbs in a small square of cardboard for safety. Wrap the cardboard with several feet of line, then stash it in the hat band. You’ll never know it is there unless you need it.
Wallet: Grab a few hooks and affix them to an old gift or credit card with a strip of duct tape. Wrap the card with fishing line, then stick it in your wallet for safekeeping.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the How To special issue of American Survival Guide.