A survival fishing kit is a must if you expect to catch food from the wild. In this article I’ll talk about military fishing kits, building the ultimate survival fishing kit, some top-rated kits, and finally some tips on how to use a fishing kit.
Military Survival Fishing kits
WW2 Survival Fishing Kit
In the early days of WWII, many survivors of sunken ships died of thirst and starvation. The military knew that almost all saltwater fish could be eaten raw and fluids could be obtained by wrapping fish flesh in cloth.
Therefore Michael Lerner, an avid fisherman, and his team began developing a survival fishing kit to be placed in lifeboats and rafts of the US Navy.
The kits included hand lines, lures, a spear point, sinkers, and hooks wrapped on wooden H-frames. They had trolling feather jigs as lures, and pork rind was included for bait because it could be stored for a long time. Some of those kits are still around on flea markets and ebay:
If you are interested, a complete account of the WW2 survival fishing kits’ development is in the book Angling and War.
US Army Survival Fishing Kit
Nowadays there are smaller fishing kits being issued for individual soldiers and pilots, like this US military survival fishing kit. It has various types and sizes of hooks and a few spoon lures. You can find it on eBay here.
NATO Survival Fishing Kit
This NATO specification fishing kit is extremely basic and meant to be carried in-person. It’s meant for saltwater and fresh water fishing.
Ultimate Survival Fishing Kit
Below is a long term survival fishing kit that I’ve been building for my INCH pack. Fishing is a very important way of gathering foods, so that’s why my kit is so big.
- Braided fishing line
547 yds (500m) of 10lb (4.5kg), and 547 yds (500m) of 65lb (4.5kg) for the fishing rod and trotlines.
- Cuban yoyo
The cuban yoyo is a compact back up for my fishing rod; it has a mono fishing line (25 lb) for hand lining (braided line would cut my hands).
- Circle hooks (6)
Circle hooks are regarded as the best performing type of hook for trotlines. My Gamakatzu hooks are size 5/0, and painted red (more chances of catching fish without bait). In the future I will add more circle hooks to my survival fishing kit.
- Jigs, lures and assorted hooks (40+)
Lures and jigs are important for fishing without bait. In addition I have dozens of assorted hooks of various types and sizes.
- Treble hooks (50+)
Treble hooks are better than J hooks for trotlines, and if one breaks, you still have two other hooks. My hooks are size 1/0.
- Weedless hooks (20)
It can be hard to fish on shallow or weedy areas: either because hooks get stuck on the rocky bottom or because while casting, algae and grass get tangled with the hook. Weedless hooks have a wire to stop that. The reason why I have so many hooks is because when you are fishing for subsistence, and you loose a hook, you need to keep fishing. By having so many hooks, I can ration them and fish more liberally.
- Snare wire
This wire makes tough leaders for trotlines and fishing. I also have a few store-bought leaders. Leaders are almost mandatory in my area, because local fish cut lines easily.
- Gill net
I have a 30m by 1.8m gillnet with a mesh size of 60mm. It’s made of braided line because mono line retains its shape (has memory) and can get tangled.
- Survival Fishing rod
I have a 6 coil Emmrod survival fishing pole that breaks down. The pole is made with steel so it won’t break easily.
- Foam bobbers
Casting bobbers for fishing in shallow areas with rocks and trees. Foam bobbers are some of the most durable out there.
- Fishing Clips
I have strong fishing clips with swivels for trotlines because fish can often escape by twisting the line.
These washers function as heavy duty sinkers for modified trotlines.
Cheap, heavy duty floats for modified trotlines.
- Braided paracord inner cores, and paracord outer cores
These work great for heavy duty trotlines, but bank line works as well
- Retrieving net
An old net that I cut from a retrieving net. This way I can make a light, compact retrieving net in the field without spending much time.
A must-have for cutting line, getting hooks unstuck (from fish or humans), making leaders, etc.
- Anchor net
A net I made for using rocks as anchors for trotlines or for use as a canoe anchor.
Something I didn’t include in my survival fishing kit is gloves, cutting board, egg sinkers, and a filleting knife. I pack-cut proof, waterproof gloves in my survival pack as well as a bushcraft knife, the cutting board can be crafted in the field or I can fillet fish over a canoe paddle. I do need to add a couple egg sinkers to use for casting.
Survival Fishing Kit Components
Some additions that I’ve contemplated for my fishing kit are the mechanical fisher and speedhooks. In fact, I recently ordered a dozen mechanical fishers to test them, and add to my kits.
The mechanical fisher seems great for someone wanting to leave 2 or 3 limb lines while resting or travelling. When a fish bites, the trigger is released and the yoyo sets the hook and reels the fish in.
Unfortunately they seem a bit bulky and heavy, and I don’t think they are much more efficient than a good trotline. I still want to experiment with them because they could be worth it.
The speed hook is a simple device that sets the hook for you. It’s actually a military issue piece of gear. I don’t have them in my survival fishing kit yet, but I’m sure they would increase the effectiveness of limb lines and trotlines. I like the simple design and I think that it would work well for ice fishing, and handlining.
Bracelet Survival Fishing kit
There are some bracelets out there with micro fishing kits in them. But the hooks are so small that the only thing you would be able to catch without having the hook break on you, is a minnow or crappie.
How to make a survival fishing kit
The first thing you need, to make your own kit, is a container. It should be rigid to protect its contents from sharp hooks. An altoids tin works great if you are making a pocket survival fishing kit. Otherwise a small tackle kit from your local fishing shop should do.
Survival Fishing Kit contents list
I’ve already listed what I have in my big fishing kit, but if you are looking to make a small one then you can start with just the basics:
- Fishing line (braided is best, you want to be able to use it for hand line casting and setting multiple lines along the shore)
- Hooks (small hooks can catch big fish but they break more easily, have assorted types and sizes)
- Leaders (either very strong line or wire leaders)
- Sinkers (these are important for hand lining and limb lines)
- Floats (optional, dried fungus should work as a bobber as well)
- Lures (fresh bait is the best but sometimes you can’t find it, so make sure to include some quality lures, although they only work with hand lines and not with trotlines)
Another way of building a survival fishing kit is to start with a small kit and build upon it. The following kits should give you some ideas about what to include in your own.
Best Survival Fishing kits on Amazon
These are the top rated survival fishing kits. They are good if you just want to buy a pocket survival fishing kit and forget about it, or if you want to use it as a base for a diy kit.
Uncle Flint’s Survival Fishing Kit
This is the most popular pocket kit on Amazon; it comes in a tin and has a few nice lures.
Yoyito compact survival fishing kit
The yoyito has been successfully used as the only item carried in Naked and Afraid. It’s basically a small cuban yoyo made of aluminum, so it’s compact and durable.
Vigilant Trails Pocket Survival Fishing Kit
This one has really nice lures and a kite styled reel for hand lining, so it’s one of the best kits. But it definitely needs extra hooks and line to complement it.
Best Glide Survival Fishing Kit
This mini kit is very well balanced and very compact I like that it comes with H- frames like older WW2 kits. The Best Glide fishing kit is also very popular and well reviewed.
Using a survival fishing kit
Many of these kits have little instructions on fishing. So I’ll do the same here.
These are some ways of setting lines and trotlines. Improvise and be creative. The basic components are floats, anchors, hooks, and line; it’s not rocket science.
Hand lining is the active way of fishing with your kit, The drawing below gives you an idea of how the sinker and hooks are set up. For hand lining use soda cans and plastic bottles as reels. You can also make a primitive fishing rod with a long, flexible sapling and some wire for the eyelets.
First of all, the contents of survival fishing kits can be used for multiple purposes. You can catch birds, rodents, and turtles with hooks, don’t limit yourself.
Second, the point is to have hooks in the water, the more hooks you have the better your chances.
Natural, fresh bait is always the best, but use lures if you can’t find bait. Leave your hooks in the water even if you don’t have lures or bait, shiny baitless hooks can also catch fish.
Finally, fish are hunter-gatherers, get in their minds. Ask yourself where would you hide and hunt for insects or smaller fish if you were one? Where are the natural bottlenecks or funnels that fish travel everyday from home to their foraging areas? Fish are creatures of habit, like all animals. Set hooks or fish with a hand line near their feeding grounds. Use both active and passive fishing techniques.