The depletion of any fish species has never been from subsistence fishing but from massive over fishing by large scale commercial fisheries. Most people had rather go to a restaurant where their fish will be delivered to them on a nicely garnished plate, robbing themselves of the satisfaction that can be obtained by catching, cleaning and cooking your own fish!
Subsistence fishing refers to fishing other than sport fishing, primarily to provide much needed food for a person(s) or family. Subsistence through fishing has been a part of human history since the beginning of our species and the world has provided no larger food source than that derived from fishing. Many people believe that subsistence fishing is typically associated with the poor and typically use rudimentary fishing tools or devices. In comparison to large scale commercial fishing this small-scale subsistence fishing is often less wasteful and less stressful on fish populations.
Growing up in rural Alabama during the 70’s, I was taught at a very young age that you did not waste any fish that was caught. If you catch it, you eat it! It was a simple rule that everyone followed, for us fishing was much more than a sport, for many families it meant food on the table that night. You learned to respect the fish, and fishing, we never worried or had concerns of depleting a fish population because you instinctively protected that resource and never over fished any area. Largemouth Bass, Catfish, and Crappie being the most sought after fish, as we did not live near any saltwater fishing resources. To this day you will still find a very healthy population of fishermen in the southern states still relying on fishing to subsidize much of their food sources.
When you are subsistence fishing you are not concerned with the latest artificial bait that’s been introduced, or the biggest fastest boat on the water, or if the style clothes you have on fit in with modern fishing styles. What you are worried about it how to catch the fish that you need; the easiest, most efficient, repeatable way that you can. Most subsistence fishermen rely most on nets, traps, spearing, or rod and reel, and live bait to catch their fish. They are not trying to pit themselves against an adversary on equal terms, instead it is about ensuring that they get the fish they need first and foremost, if not the consequence is most likely someone will not eat that night.
When you are in the backcountry and in a situation where food has become vital to your survival, one of the easiest food resources is fish. I’m not saying it is the only available resources, or that it is always the easiest food sources, it depends on the weather and geographical location, I have seen times when I could have walked around picking up duck eggs easier than I could have spent the time fishing. I always recommend whenever you are traveling in the outdoors that you carry some fishing items in your kit such as:
- 10-15 yards of 4-6LB test line (smaller test line will get you more bites because it is harder for the fish to see)
- Small hooks, by that I mean the smallest that you think you can get away with, you want the fish to be able to easy swallow the hook, in a survival situation you should not be concerned with lip-hooking any fish.
- Small weights, I have used small rocks before but tying to the rough surface of the rock can weaken the line allowing breakage.
- A small float however I’ve found that nature provides plenty of floating material that can be used; twigs.
- A couple of small flashy baits, I use these in case I am in trout country, however I more heavily rely on finding bait that nature provides; worms, bugs, etc. I’ve ever caught a fish in a sliver of cattail before.
- Paracord that should be in your kit already can be used to make a fish stringer, the longer you keep your fish in the water the fresher they will be, tie it securely to the fish as well as the shore, remember your life could depend on it.
Many people think that survival fishing has to consist of stripping apart lengths of paracord to make fishing line, I have never understand if you have the forethought to pack paracord why not simply pack a small amount of fishing line?Paracord could be used in an emergency but if you planned ahead as you should then you won’t need to.
What I would love to see instead is a Paracord manufacturer that inserts one strand of fishing line within their paracord, now wouldn’t that be a great thing!
Where To Look For Fish
I have been fishing for over four decades and sometimes even still fish can be very elusive, there are very attuned to their environment and the slightest things can changed their movements as well as their feeding habits; forthcoming weather changes, water temperature, seasonal events, breeding, are all things that change where and when a fish will be in an area and feeding. There is an enormous amount information published by experts in all types of fishing so I’m not going to go into a lot of great detail but I will give you a few tips that I feel are important to remember.
I have found that in running streams that trout will mainly position themselves downstream of rocks/boulders, there is less effort needing in swimming against a current and food is naturally swept by currents past these areas. It is always best to cast slightly upstream of a rock and let the current naturally carry the bait past the rocks.
Trout tend to be active feeders during early morning hours from about dawn to midday, then again from dusk to dark. Trout also like to feed beneath overhanging trees, because insects fall or are blown into the water by the wind, providing a good source for food.
Trout will rarely feed in water that is below 40F or above 67F. If a cold front is approaching and the clouds start moving in and air temperature is stable, this is an excellent time to trout fish. Trout like to hang out in shaded areas because they do not have an eyelid and as such much seek shade from direct sunlight.
Bass are ambush predators, they do not like to expend a lot of energy chasing down a meal, so they are best found in locations that provide a good ambush position, this can include; rocks, submerged structures, underwater trees, or drop offs to mention a few. Bass are rarely found in small streams, they require a larger area for effective reproduction, they will be mostly available in rivers and lakes. Bait fish naturally seek cover to hide from larger predators which attracts Bass to these areas, such as log jams, brush piles and weed beds.
On a cloudy day bass like a shinny reflective bait, on sunny days they like a dull non-reflective bait. They will feed close to shore in the morning hours and move farther out to open deeper water as the day progresses. Bass also have very good eyesight and can see above the water line, so if you are standing tall on the bank especially casting a shadow on the water, don’t think that they cannot see you, they can, and it is likely they will not bite. So stay close to the ground as you can, think of it as hunting prey and do your best to be stealthy.
Catfish can be one of the easiest of all fish to catch, they typically will eat just about any live/dead that you can provide as bait, and the more pungent the smell the better. There are several places that will almost always consistently hold catfish; outside river bends, river deep holes, tributary mouths, bottom channels, riprap, and logjams. For catfish you might need a stronger fishing line as when hooked they will tend to head directly to deep cover or holes.
If you are fishing out of a survival situation, I suggest you concentrate your efforts on small easy to catch fish, this will provide the greatest success rate and you don’t want to be risking valuable fishing gear on a larger fish that could possibly damage the gear, break the line, or lose your hook/sinker.