I once read that if you wanted to know how to hunt big game post-SHTF, just read through the hunting regulations and do what it says is illegal. I guess the same must apply to fishing. Coty Perry, in his article "Survival Fishing: How to Catch Fish When SHTF" at Your Bass Guy warns his readers that "[b]efore we continue, know that some of the techniques I’m going to share are illegal in the United States. I’m sharing them so that in a true survival situation, you’ll know what to do."
I have to admit that I haven't put a whole lot of thought into survival fishing because I don't fish and, therefore, don't have the equipment. (I've a couple cheap rods and poles from when my kids were Cub Scouts and I was trying to help them, but that isn't real equipment). I've poured over many outdoor survival books since I was a wee lad, so I know the rudiments of making an improvised fish hook and how to make simple fish traps, but I also know that there is a lot of work and skill that goes into fishing that I don't have. (I have a friend, on the other hand, that the couple times he was fishing literally was able to throw in his lure and regularly pull a fish out every minute or two while I couldn't even get a nibble). Fortunately, Perry's article seems aimed at people like me.
For instance, he begins by telling the reader:
When catching fish in survival mode, you need to think a little differently about fishing. Sure, you can fish with a rod and reel, but for the long-term, you’ll want something that doesn’t require so much of your time. Called passive fishing, it involves you setting the stage and coming back to reap the harvest. We’ll discuss these different methods in a moment.
In long-term survival, you also want more than a reliable fishing spot. You want a place where you can collect fish and keep them alive until you want them. Lastly, when you’re in a survival situation, you need to maximize your chance of catching fish. That means implementing more than one strategy and continually monitoring them for success.
The two basic methods that he starts with are setting multiple lines from poles (improvised or not) and a trot line (dropping lines from a rope or cord suspended across a stream). He goes on to discuss some other non-sport fishing methods of catching fish, including using a gorge hook or net fishing, hand fishing, spear fishing, knocking them out with a club, fish traps, fish weirs, and "stunning" fish using a poison.
Perry then turns to trying to advice on where to fish, different factors that impact how and when fish feed, and how to approach a fishing hole without spooking the fish. For instance, about some of the factors that influence fishing, he writes:
Fish feed most before dawn and within the first hour of daylight, making it the prime time to have a line in the water. The second most productive time of day to fish is right after dusk when they again feed heavy.
In the spring, fish are easiest to catch, especially if you live somewhere that has a cold winter. In these areas, the fish are hungry and active due to the warmer water. Many are also laying their eggs near shore in the spring, so opt to drop your line in covered, shallow water.
In summer, fish often prefer the deeper waters where it’s cooler. Move away from the shore and try to hit the deep holes or still water in the shade. In the fall, the water temperature starts to drop, spurring fish to increase their food intake.
This means they may be more interested in your bait. During winter, fish stay in deeper waters, away from the ice on the surface. Be sure to have a deep enough line that the fish can find your hook.
Barometric pressure also impacts fish and many go into a feeding frenzy before a storm. When the storm includes a cold front, the amount a fish eats can slow down until after the cold snap passes. On this same note, a bit of wind can increase your odds when you’re fishing for survival.
Strong winds make waves that interfere with the fish’s ability to see out of the water. Windy weather also stirs up sediment, making the water cloudy and the fish less likely to spook.
Experienced fishermen are probably reading this and saying, "well, duh," but for someone like me that is not a fisherman, it is all good to know, and not something I've seen in survival manuals.
Anyway, Perry concludes his article by going over what gear to have on hand for a survival situation, putting together a SHTF fishing kit (both for home and a bug-out bag), where to look for bait, and cleaning and cooking fish.
Read it and print it up for your survival notebook.