If you ever need to “live off the land,” fish will invariably be a part of the equation. And ancient methods of gathering fish can help set the table. A line with a hook was only one of many methods. People, such as the Native Americans, used nets, dams, and spears to catch fish. They also used wild plants with particular toxins to stun the fish. The techniques were similar for most of these fish-catching plants. The entire plant was beaten or crushed and tossed into a pool or enclosure with slow currents. The stunned fish were then quickly scooped up by hand or nets.

However, these methods depend on several variables, such as water temperatures ranging from icy cold to warm. Other issues include large volumes of rapidly flowing water; various sizes of the actual pools; the amount of sunlight hitting the water; the pH (acidity) of the water; and the unique “chemical soup” of water with other animal species, etc. In other words, the many variables of the water can affect the plant toxins considerably.

And to put a full disclaimer to the above roundup of wild plants for taking the fight out of fish: Be aware that poisoning (even natural poison) is illegal in most states. Check your local laws.

This article originally appeared in ‘Survivor’s Edge’ Summer 2017. To order a copy, visit

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