Its obvious why we say fish first, because where there are fish there are many other types of game. A large majority of the military personnel that we come in contact with have had very little fishing experience. About 70% of our students have not been fishing since they hit the age of 18. And on the average they have only been fishing twice when they were under the age of 16. So what you have is a beginner fisherman in many cases. Adaptation skills end up being very low on a soldiers priority list (until he/she is stranded or a POW, for some reason his attitude changes (imagine that). And this attitude is solidified by his chain of commands lack of interest as well. And many times training comes in the form of "disseminating information to the troops." This is not teaching a former urbanite how to fish, how to feed himself or how to survive when his world is turned to chaos.

We believe that "showing" a student something is not "teaching" a student something. He/she is taught by getting his hands on and applying what he/she was taught. Experience should be gained before he/she leaves the school. Imagine going to a school or sitting through a class on race car driving. But never being able to get into the race car and race. Then 2 years later they put you in a racecar at the Daytona 500 (or Irag or Bosnia or Somalia etc.) and say, "utilize the training that Uncle Sam spent so much money on, and if you donít win you bring disgrace to your service." And thatís how we end up with elite warriors that canít start a fire with tripflare. This page of the site is directed towards those individuals, because we give a S**t even if their chain of command doesnít.

U.S. RSOG cadre try to place an emphasis on different unconventional methods of fishing that give a survivor a larger arsenal than just hook and line. The first rule of survival fishing is "think big and catch small." The late Colonel Nick Rowe, founder of todayís Special Forces S.E.R.E. school, was a P.O.W in Vietnam for five years until his escape. While he was imprisoned in a remote jungle camp, he fed himself by catching very small fish. He ate them both cooked and raw, swallowing them whole so that he would gain all of the nutrients the small creatures had to offer. The small fish that he had caught were not caught on hook and line. As he later found out those fish were angelfish, the same angelfish that many people in the states had in their aquariums.

In the U.S. as well as other parts of the world, small minnow sized fish are abundant. The best way to catch large amounts of them is in traps or with different types of nets. As we move up the scale the next size of fish that can be caught in numbers is panfish (blue gills and perch). They are also easily caught in fish traps. If the bigger fish happen along while catching the small ones, then it just became an unlucky day to be a big fish and a lucky day to be a survivor.

Basic Techniques

  1. Fish traps
  2. Gigging and gaffing
  3. Trot lines and bank lines
  4. Hand fishing
  5. Pole snaring
  6. Angling (artificial bait)

Improvised Hook

One of the best-improvised hooks that we use is the "skewer." The best way to describe a skewer is by picturing tying fishing line in the middle of a toothpick. Then push the toothpick into a banana lengthwise totally burying the toothpick inside of the banana. Now imagine a person swallowing the banana whole. When it is in the throat or in the stomach the line is pulled. The toothpick now turns sideways and is lodged in the throat or stomach. Skewers can be made out of bone, wood, metal, or plastic. They have to be made small so that it can be totally concealed in the bait. One of if not the best baits is a black cricket, so imagine just how small that it has to be to get it into a cricket. Shove it into the cricket from its forth point of contact (civilians know this as the rectum) to its head. Usually a skewer is carved out of dry hardwood and flattened on the sides like a Popsicle stick. Of course both ends are sharpened and a few shallow notches are carved in the middle of the skewer so that the line has something to bite into.

Fish Traps

Fish traps can be made from many different materials. The best are constructed from chicken wire and wire mesh. But they can be improvised from plastic bottles or built with primitive materials. The trap is a baited trap. Bait can consist of spoiled meat to guts of a cleaned animal or even crackers and bread (MRE). The basic primitive fish trap is constructed of thin skinned branches 3-4 feet long. See photos on this site. All fish traps (except metal traps) need rocks secured in them so that they will sink. They should be checked at least twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening if possible. If setting it in a stream with moving water the mouth of the trap should be pointed up stream.

Gigging & Gaffing

A fish gig is usually manufactured from steel but can be whittled out of natural materials. It has two or three barbed tines just like a trident and a stout long spear like handle. It is dipped down in the water and slowly moved just over a visible fish. Then it is quickly jammed through the fish pinning it to the bottom of the creek bed etc. Or if the water is to deep to reach the bottom it can be jabbed at the fish with a short quick stroke. Even a single barbed spear whittled out of a long sapling will work, but the point should be thin and sharp. Placing it in a fire can harden it. The barb should be sharp as well and takes some fine knife work to get it shaped. Penetrating the fish from the side and going all the way through the fish seems to work best with a single pointed spear. When pinning the fish to the bottom it is best to not try and pick the fish up with the spe ar. If at all possible keep it pinned to the bottom and reach down and grab it with a hard grip, then bring it to the surface.

Trot Lines & Bank Lines

A trotline is nothing more than a stout piece of line that is 15-100 feet long. Then 2-3 foot pieces of line are tried to the main line in 3-foot intervals. The drop lines are hooked and baited. One end of the main line is tied to a weight and dropped to the bottom. The line is stretched out along any area that a survivor thinks is a good fishing area. The line is usually NOT stretched across a waterway (creek, stream, river etc.) but, that is not the rule. The line is usually stretched the length of the waterway, but again that is not the rule. The other end of the main line is usually tied to something that floats, like a plastic jug. In an improvised situation it could be secured on a bank or tied to a log snag out in the water. It is put in place in the evening and checked the next morning. When checking start at the end of the main line that is floating or tied off and pull the main line to the surface. The survivor works his/her way down the main line to each drop line. Trotlines are a good piece of equipment if the survivor has enough hooks, bait and stout cordage. Treble hooks work the best for this type of application. If large enough hooks are carried in the kit small perch can be used for bait and even whole sparrowís work well for the big catfish.

Hand Fishing

Hand fishing is a very good method for collecting fish. It is easy and once the first fish is caught by hand it will become a favorite technique of the survivor. Just getting an individual to try it seems to be the biggest hurdle. Basically a hand is slowly reached into likely spots that lounging fish stay. There is no real need to be able to see the fish about 97% of it is by feel. Slowly move the hand along the bottom of a submerged log or in between submerged rocks. Snags and holes in banks are all great spots as well. Many fish can be found just hovering under the edge of a slightly over hanging bank edge. Once you feel the skin of the fish the hand can be slowly positioned open over the fishís back (smaller fish). Then in one quick thrusting grasp the fish is driven into the bottom and held there until a good one or to hand grip can be obtained. When going after larger fish, the fish is pinned against anything firm. Then the opposing handís fingers are shoved into the eye sockets or gills of the fish. The fish can be quickly raised to the surface and flung up on the shore or it can be attached to a stringer of some kind. We have run into many fish that are so large, 2-4 feet long, that took two people or more to bring up. It is our belief that brown water fish are easier to catch than clear water fish. You canít see them but they canít see you either.

Pole Snaring

Pole snaring is nothing more than a 6-7 foot sapling with a 6-7 foot piece of line secured to the end of the pole. Then a hole is drilled in the pole 6 inches from the spot where the line was originally tied. The unsecured end of the line is run through the hole and back to the han dle. A loop of the line is held under the front of the pole, then it is slowly dipped into the water. The loop is moved over the animalís head or tail (snake, fish, alligator, turtle, and frogs). When it is in the right position the line is pulled tight and the animal is cinched up against the end of the pole.


Angling is nothing more than using some artificial material configured to look and act like living bait. Every fish can be taken with some kind of artificial lure. Knowing how to create them with natural materials is very useful. If real bait is in short supply then artificial lures are a good option, but not always the best option. Anything is worth trying and then mastering if it has been shown in the past to work. The smallest REBEL crawdad seems to be one of our cadres favorites. It works for a variety of fish. It is thrown out and pulled quickly for 1-2 feet then stop, it either starts to float up or it starts to sink (depending on which lure is bought). Some have longer spoons on the front and will dive deeper. Let it set for a second or two and jerk again. It is best pulled down the length of the banks edge, just 2-3 feet off shore. The farther it can be cast and retrieved the better. Angling can be done with a pole and a length of line tied to the end, or with just line in the hands. Some of our cadre pack telescoping fishing poles and reels in their "mule kit."

A Little On Kits

Many times students will ask us what are the best fishing kit contents ? Our cadre always reply a 4 - foot cast net and a four-foot square of chicken wire. Then that "are they serious look" comes across their faces. Yes, we are serious about those two items as the most productive pieces of fishing equipment. But, they are of course unrealistic for an individual kit. So, from there the next piece of equipment obviously is hooks and line, and lots of both. Two to three dozen of varying sized hooks and as much line as can possibly be shoved into a kit. Most of our cadre carry 50 hooks and SPIDERWIRE FUSION. At least one dozen treble hooks can accompany the kit for trotlines and bank lines. Smaller sizes are the norm (1 inch long).

And then comes every color of Berkley scented rubber jig body that can be shoved into a kit and lead head jig hooks (the smaller sizes seem to be the norm). Plus, a few spit shot to sink live bait that just wont go down. And unless you want to rig a small piece of driftwood as a float, toss a small bobber in the mi x. Our people carry large 3-4 inch single barb hooks that are used for gaffing fish (the barb to the tip needs to be bent out away from the shaft just a little, so that it is easier to use). If the kit is big enough a frog gig should be added. If thereís enough room for the gig then there is enough room for the smallest REBEL crawdad lure.

And one other unusual piece of equipment, the net from a household fish aquarium. Just the net, cut the frame and handle off with wire cutters. Then in the field a thin green, flexible stick can be fished back through the net edges and lashed back into the shape of the original wire handle. The larger green nylon nets work well. Now you have the ability to scoop minnows and small perch from shallow areas of the water.

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