DIY Survival Fishing Kit

Whether you’ve bugged out or made the decision to bug in; fishing to feed yourself in a SHTF situation is an important skill to have. There are many ways to fish and methods vary depending on your location, type of water (fresh or salt), and the equipment you have. We’re going to take a look at my particular situation and also look at some DIY items to supplement your kit.

Fishing to survive is a risky choice because most of the time fishing is a time consuming task. So unless you’ve scored that proverbial “honey hole” with a never ending supply of fish; expending a lot of calories to put fish on the menu may not be the right choice. You will have to make the decision to fish or not based on the availability of other food sources. Once you have your fishing kit together make sure you know how to use it. Practice tying knots, try different casting methods, make a pole and learn where fish in your area like to hide. Take a weekend camping trip near some fishing spots and see if you can feed yourself with what you catch.

In my current location (SoCal) fishing would not be my best solution for a food source. I’m 25 to 50 miles away from any substantial fishing resources. I have located a couple of stocked ponds nearby but those would most likely get fished out quickly in a SHTF scenario. There are creeks and lakes with fish all within a 50 mile area which again isn’t a good option unless I’ve bugged out and could remain close to those areas. My best choice, which is one of my “never coming home again” bug out routes would be to head toward the ocean which is about 25 miles away.

Given my current location and fishing options close by I decided a minimal fishing kit would suffice for my bug out bag. When putting anything in my bug out bag the adage “Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain” always comes to mind. First thing to lose when putting a minimal fishing kit together is the rod and reel. They simply weigh too much and take up space. Store that equipment at your bug out location or if you have a fishing spot you are confident in you can always cache a fishing kit with poles. To put my minimal fishing kit together I decided to use the ubiquitous Altoids small tin. It met the requirements of being small enough to stash anywhere in my BOB or even a pocket, a secure lid to keep the contents contained and the size keeps me from filling it with stuff I don’t really need. The contents are listed below.

Minimal fishing kit:

  • Approximately 30 yards of 20 pound test mono filament line
  • 20 assorted hooks including 4 larger sized
  • Some split shot weight
  • 10 barrel swivels with interlock snap
  • 4 wire leaders with barrel swivels and interlock snap (not pictured)



The contents of this small kit are sufficient to fish with in most areas. I keep the items in small plastic bags to keep them from rattling around. I carry the extra hooks to set multiple lines or one longer set line in hopes of increasing my odds of catching dinner. You can also use paracord, which I wrap an extra 12 feet or so around the can, to make extra line by pulling the strands out. An added bonus is the line and wire leaders can also be used for make snares and traps for smaller game. With the limited fishing options available to me the thought of being able to snare a rabbit or squirrel to supplement the menu is a good one. Increasing your odds of catching fish by running multiple set lines along with numerous snares and traps is a survival decision you should consider.

Bait is also something to consider. Search the area by looking under rocks, ledges and dead wood for grubs and other insects. A little digging may yield a few worms there also. I did a quick sweep of my yard and found some worms and two grasshoppers, not bad for just a couple minutes of searching. If you do catch smaller fish remember that the big fish feed on the little ones. A minnow may not be a meal for you but there may be a bigger fish looking for a meal too. If you can fashion some traps use fish entrails and other scraps as bait. I’ve even had fish hook themselves on a new, bright shiny hook with no bait. The last fishing trip I had with my grandfather yielded only a few fish but he taught me frogs like shiny things. We proceeded to throw our lines with shiny hooks into the reeds at the lake’s edge and within an hour we had a bucket of frogs. Frog legs don’t taste like chicken but my grandfather could fry them up into a tasty meal.

Spinners and other similar lures were left out of my minimal kit but are included in my larger kit which resides in my “I’m never coming home again” bag. You can always fashion some lures with things lying about. I fashioned a bottle cap lure, which I have used with some success before, with the help of my multi tool and contents of my kit. Field expedient hooks can be fashioned from pieces of wood, nails, paper clips, safety pins or even a soda can tab. They’re not pretty but I have caught fish with them. If you don’t want your Altoid tin or if you find another; try cutting an elongated circle piece out of the lid. Punch a hole in one end and put it on your line above the barrel swivel and you have an instant spinner lure. This will work with many things you can scavenge such as soda or beer cans also. You can also make a fishing fly by sliding a hook up inside a small piece of paracord, tying it off and fraying the ends.


Another piece of gear you might consider is a small gill / seine net. They take up some room in your bag but don’t weigh that much. They will also work as a trap or snare for small land animals. I have a survival gill net from Best Glide Aviation Survival Equipment in my bigger kit and have successfully used it in catch fish and crabs.

Patience is a virtue and it certainly applies to fishing. Take the time to study where fish hide and like to feed. Find places to fish. Check out on-line resources for city, county, and state sites that refer to fishing locations. Department of Forestry and National Park sites are also good resources. Find or build a kit that works for your situation and location. Take the time now to use the contents and make sure you know how to use them. Trying to use gear for the first time when the SHTF is not an enviable position. Be prepared to use your gear!

About Chuck Butler

Chuck is a defense contractor and USAF vet with both land and water survival training. He qualified on a number of weapons systems while in the service and shot competitively with USPSA and WSSA. Having lived in the Far East, Europe, and Africa he uses these travel experiences to aid his prepping. However his main prepping experience is guided by his midwest family roots and traditional outdoor experiences.

View all posts by Chuck Butler

One Response to “DIY Survival Fishing Kit”

  1. John Says:

    Mono-filament line is often the best in a reel, since it casts well and is the least disturbing to the fish. However, it tends to have a “memory”, so when it is packed small in a small kit like this, it is more difficult to straighten and use. It’s a bit harder to tie, and doesn’t make a good sewing thread. I prefer a good woven (multi-filament) line. And throw in a few needles with eyes big enough for that line. Sometimes I do have a bit of mono-filament as well to make leaders from if the fish are really nervous.


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