You have bugged out into the wilderness, or you find yourself lost in the forest. You will have some immediate concerns such as staying warm and staying hydrated. In addition, food will soon start to become a priority. There are lots of options for food in the wild. However, you need an efficient way to get the fats, calories, and protein needed to stay strong and keep your head clear. Fish are one of the best sources of these nutrients. Fishing requires little energy and time if it is done properly.
Let’s say that you were smart enough to bring fishing gear with you. This might be a pocket fishing tool, or it may just be a line and hook. Either way, you will need to find something to attract the fish to your hook. This could be live bait, or it could be a makeshift lure using found materials. If you do not know what to look for, this can be a daunting task. However, with the right knowledge, you will always have something on your hook to catch a fish.
In this article, we will cover how to find live bait in the wild for fishing. We will also discuss how you can fashion a simple lure that will be successful in a survival scenario.
What Will Attract Fish?
To know how to catch fish to survive, you must understand what will attract a fish. First, keep in mind that fish are visual animals. One of your best bets is to use tactics that will catch the attention of the fish and make them strike. MOVEMENT is one of the best ways to accomplish this. If you can find any kind of live bait that will move even after hooked, is an excellent way to catch a fish. Minnows, worms, beetles, and grasshoppers can all work well for this as they will continue to squirm even after being hooked.
However, you must be careful where you place the hook to keep the movement as natural as possible. With minnows, many people want to hook them through the mouth. This reverses the minnow preventing it from moving naturally. You are best to hook it just behind the fins so that it can face forward and move freely. With worms, you want to leave at least a few inches hanging off of the hook so that it can wriggle around. With insects, hooking anywhere in the center of the body will allow the legs to move freely.
Reflective surfaces are another good way to get the attention of a fish. Reflective surfaces will catch the sunlight and sparkle in the water. This will often bring in the fish and compel them to strike. Bright colors can be another good option. Especially in low light or murky water, bright colors like reds, oranges, and yellows can cut through and be visible from a distance. Even when you are using a stationary lure or live bait that has stopped moving, you can create movement. In this case, you will want to combine slight jerks of the line while reeling in your hook to simulate natural movement.
Finally, fish have a powerful sense of smell. You can attract fish to your hook by using the smell of natural bait. When you put a minnow, a worm, or an insect on your hook, you will be releasing an odor into the water. Fish can smell this from quite a distance. At a minimum, this can draw them into the general vicinity of your bait. This smell is even more obvious to fish once the hook is inserted. As your bait releases body fluids into the water, this indicates an injury. Injured prey is a favorite of hungry fish because it means an easier meal for the fish in the area.
There are a few different ways to catch minnows in a survival scenario for bait. I personally like to keep a minnow trap in my pack. Mine is a mesh trap with several openings. The openings have sleeves attached to the inside so fish can swim in but cannot swim back out. If you don’t have a trap like this, you can make your own.
A bottle trap is one of the easiest ways to get some bait. Take a plastic bottle and remove any labels that are still on it. Use a knife to cut off the top of the bottle just below the taper. Flip it upside down and insert it back into the base. You can punch holes and use cordage to attach the two pieces together, or you can just shove it tightly into the base. You may want to cut a larger opening if you want to target larger bait. Put some rocks in the base to weigh it down. If you have any small scraps of food, add them to bring in the minnows.
For a larger minnow trap, you can build an “M trap.” This trap uses the same principles as the fish swim in and cannot find their way back out. You will need some shallow water for this to work. The easiest way to build your ‘M’ is by using rocks. Start stacking and piling rocks to build a wall in the shape of an ‘M.’ You want the base of the ‘M’ to reach the shoreline. In addition, you want to leave a small opening at the cleave of the ‘M’ for fish to swim in. You will need your wall to be tall enough that it comes completely out of the water. This design works better without bait than the bottle trap. Often, you can scare a large group of minnows into your trap simply by splashing around in the water. If you have trouble removing the minnows from the trap, gather a bundle of foliage or grasses. Drop it on top of some of your minnows, and then use the plant material to scoop them up and throw them onto the shore. Then you can dig through the plants and pull out your bait.
Worms and Insects
If you want to stay on land to collect your bait, you have a few options. The easiest way to find bait is just to look around as you walk through the wilderness. One of the best places to look is an overgrown field. Often insects like the direct sunlight, and they also like eating the plants in the field. You can find lots of grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars in an area like this. Rotten logs are another good option. You will find grubs, crickets, spiders, centipedes, and pill bugs in rotten logs. These all can work well for bait. Just watch for snakes as they also like areas such as sunny fields or rotten logs.
If you want to find worms and grubs, underground is your best bet. You can start digging anywhere and get lucky. However, moist soil is always going to be a more likely environment for worms and grubs. The best time to find worms is right after a heavy rainstorm. This will often bring nightcrawlers to the surface and most of the time, you will not have to do any digging at all if you look around after a rainstorm. Collect as many as you can and store them in a container with cool, moist soil to use them for several days.
When you are making your own lures in a survival scenario, almost any materials you find can be used. One of your best options is to use something with a reflective surface that will shimmer in the sun. Aluminum foil works well for this if you fold it over a few times so it does not tear off of the hook. Keep your piece small enough that a good-sized fish could eat it if inclined. You can also use a piece of an aluminum can. In addition, many food wrappers have a reflective surface on the inside. Unfortunately, litter is pretty common, but you can take advantage of it as a resource.
You can also use anything brightly colored to attract fish. This could be a found piece of plastic, a piece of brightly colored cloth, or a bright piece of cordage. It is quite common to find trash that is brightly colored, so look around and use the items that other people have discarded. Just make sure that whatever you use is attached to the hook well. As you reel in your line, you will be applying a good amount of resistance to your lure. If you have not attached it well, you will likely retrieve a bare hook.
The Best Way to Find Bait
There is one secret technique for finding the best bait possible to target the fish in your area. Once you catch a fish, clean it as you normally would. However, you will want to save the stomach and intestines. Use the tip of your knife to carefully open up the guts. Find a rock or tree stump and empty the stomach and intestine contents onto the flat surface. In most cases, you will find insects or other potential bait inside the guts. By doing this, you know exactly what that species of fish is eating. Rinse it off and reuse the stomach and intestine contents as bait on your hook. Do this with every fish that you catch. Then, if you run out of bait you will want to find those same insects or minnows in the area. This is by far the best way to identify bait for catching lots of fish in a survival scenario.
As you can see, even without having a tackle box with you there are plenty of options for baiting your hook or building your own lure. If you take the time to look around and find the items that other people have discarded, you will always have the materials that you need to build your own lure.
In addition, there are all kinds of live bait you can find in any wilderness environment. With a little effort and a lot of knowledge, you will be able to find ways to attract fish to your hook. However, do not forget the general rules about survival fishing. Fish are very visual creatures, so wear muted earth-tone colors so you don’t scare off the fish. Fish in the early morning and late evening so you are targeting times that fish are more active.
You can also focus on fishing in the low barometric pressure before a storm, and in the hours after a storm. Rain will wash food sources into the water, so fish will be actively feeding.
Finally, be sure you get some practice before you find yourself in a survival scenario. The next time you plan to go fishing, camping, or hiking, just take a line and hook with you. Search the area and force yourself to find your own live bait or materials to build a lure. Attach it to your hook and see if you can get any action. As is with any survival skill, you want to get in some hours honing your skills before your life depends upon that skill. If you are not getting any action, make some changes and try again. Keep tweaking your technique until you have the perfect lure or live bait. Only then will you know that you can survive by fishing in a survival situation.