Bush Craft & Wilderness Survival Articles, Gear Reviews & Videos
Stow-Away Fishing Kits (Part 1)
by George Hedgepeth
Most wilderness areas are dotted with ponds or criss-crossed by streams that hold fish and can be a reliable source of high quality protein. This resource can be gathered fairly easily if one has a small amount of gear. A small fishing kit can provide both food and enjoyment for the outdoors person. These need not be large. A small candy tin, a film canister, a cigar tube, or even a prescription pill bottle can serve as the basis for a handy fishing kit. In fact, anything to large to be easily pocketed is apt to be left behind instead of being available when that next pool is too tempting to resist. "Handy" is better than "Exhaustive" in this case for sure!
A variety of containers can be used for the fishing kit.
Here, we have a match safe, a fly box, and a film canister.
A kit that is set up for a particular area may require items that might not make the cut in a general purpose set up. Since every area is a bit different, we will concentrate here on a broad based, general approach that should be suitable for most conditions most of the time. After all, this is aimed at unexpected opportunities, not planned and dedicated fishing trips.
Hooks - Hooks are small, cheap, and necessary. Do not skimp here; have a plentiful variety available. Different hook styles are best suited for different conditions, but I will make a few generalizations here. First, it is much easier to land a large fish on a small, strong hook than it is to catch a small fish on a hook that is too large. Slant the selection in the kit to these tough, versatile styles. I get a lot of use from #4 and #8 forged bait-holder hooks. I will also carry a few very small hooks, like a #12 Aberdeen or fly hooks for a specialized job. These are for catching chubs, shiners, or other very small fish for bait (either live or cut) for larger fish, turtles, or even trapping mammals like raccoons. They can also be eaten if nothing else is hitting. Considering the vast size of some minnow shoals, as well as their availability in waters that may contain no other fish, this is an option worth considering.
Although small hooks should be the majority of what one carries, a few larger hooks are handy. Something like a #2 or #0 hook is convenient for presentation of large live or cut baits. Also, a gaff can be made from a large hook to assist landing large fish or even snatching fish out of the water. If one were to come across a small stream during a fish run, this could generate considerable food.
Treble hooks are bulky and inconvenient compared to single hooks, but can be very useful in setline fishing. A small-to-medium treble hook, like a #4, has tremendous holding strength on even very large fish. A strong treble hook tied to a springy green limb or sapling can catch large fish and turtles reliably.
Sinkers - Weights for fishing come in a large variety of sizes and styles. It makes good sense to use weights that are reusable. Two varieties that I find very useful are re-usable split shot and sliding egg sinkers. I like the split shot style to be in the 1/8 and 1/4 ounce sizes. This is handy for light baits, and also to use as a stop for larger sliding sinkers. I prefer the egg sinkers to be heavier- usually one ounce or so. This will keep larger baits down in the deep holes, even in fairly strong currents.
Swivels - These are probably optional in a strictly minimalist kit, but they are quite handy. They are convenient stops to keep a sliding sinker from fouling a hook, and they keep fish caught on setlines from twisting and knotting scarce line. Also, they can be used on improvised snares to allow them to be reused.