Remember, you must prove your life was in jeopardy to justify using these alternative fishing methods to catch supper when you’re in dire pinch:

1. Funnel fish into pool pens by building up rock walls in creeks.
Fish funneled into these pools can’t escape and are food on demand. This provides a long-term food storage method as fish will feed off the food brought into the pens. The alternative to storing fish in this manner is to dry fish in the open air or to smoke them. Sometimes it is easier to preserve food by keeping it alive. 

2. Use mullein, soapwort or black walnut plants and trees to “poison” fish.
Gather these plants and crush them to create a pulpy concoction you can release in slow-moving creeks with low water volumes. Fast-moving water and high volumes of water will cause the “poison” to disperse too quickly. This method works best in very small creeks or pools of water with minimal current. Many other plants and trees can be used to literally suffocate aquatic fish life. This method of drugging fish is gen-erally illegal despite having no long-term effects on the fish. Also, the fish aren’t dangerous to consume once cooked.

machete hack fishing

Machetes are often used for hacking fish

3. Hacking fish involves using the back of a long blade like a machete to break the spine of a fish as it is drawn to the surface by a light source.
Use the back of the blade to avoid accidentally cutting yourself should the blade veer off course. Use accordion-folded birch bark to create a homemade torch if an electronic light source isn’t
available. Hacking fish and spearing fish by lantern are both effective and proven means of fishing.

4. Snagging fish requires throwing a line to the far side of a river with a high fish population.
The line is slowly retrieved until it makes contact with the back of a fish or the gills of a fish. When contact is made, the line is jerked very aggressively. To optimize results, multiple hooks can be used and split shot sinkers can be placed close to the hooks. Using a long pole to create a lever will yield more results than a hand line.

Related Stories: Survival Fishing Techniques

This article originally published in AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  2014-#158 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  magazine are available here

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  • Andrew Sadler

    Thank you for sharing this article. I have seen articles claiming to teach alternative fishing, and the only things they contain are how to make improvised lures! The only other method I would add to this list is the trot line, as it is able to be made prior to any survival situation, weighs very little, and fits in small spaces. I would suggest previously tying ten or more trebles on eight inch loops, and a spool of cordage. Tie a loop around a rock, and another end of the cordage to a tree on shore, bait each hook with terrestrial insects, or minnows, and carry the rock out to the end of the line. I Would aim for past the midway point. You can simply put the loops of fishing line with a looped knot in the bind down the length of the line, covering multiple sections of the river. Then, while your trot line is working for you, you can proceed to find other food sources, gather materials, and check back on the trot line every couple of hours. If you intend to try out this method while doing a survival training scenario, make sure to check state and local laws, as trot lines may be illegal in your area.

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