If you’re like me, you haven’t put a whole lot of thought into survival fishing kits. I’ve got half a dozen rods and reels capable of catching everything from walleye to wahoo. Why would I ever need a compact fishing kit?
But as many preppers like to say, everyone has a plan until the @#&! hits the fan!
You never know when that one piece of kit will come in handy when you’re stranded in the wilderness.
In a survival situation, every extra calorie can mean the difference between life and death. Freshwater and saltwater fish are plentiful throughout most States, so having a way to harvest this food source makes sense.
Obviously, true survival situations don’t arise very often, but being prepared never hurt anyone.
Outdoors enthusiasts, preppers and anglers love to discuss the best equipment for their kits and bug-out bags. Many include some form of compact fishing kit for catching fish – some of which are better than others. I’ll break down why you need a fishing survival kit, some of the best pre-made kits, and how to make one for yourself.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Survival Fishing Kits
- Best Overall: Uncle Flint’s Survival Fishing Kit
- Best Compact Fishing Survival Kit: Best Glide ASE Survival Fishing Kit – Compact
- Best Emergency Fishing Kit: Vigilant Trails Pocket / Survival Fishing Kit
- Hand Reel Survival Kit: Yoyito Freshwater Aluminum Hand Line Reel Kit
- Telescoping Rod Survival Kit: PLUSINNO Carbon Fiber Telescopic Rod Kit
Why do you need a survival fishing kit?
You might think you’ll be able to catch fish with paracord and soda can tabs, but unless you’re Bear Grylls, it probably won’t be very effective.
A compact fishing kit is small enough to fit in your pocket or throw in your pack and forget about it. Most kits come with a variety of hooks, lures, and sinkers plus a decent length of line – which is enough to catch fish in an emergency situation.
If your vehicle broke down in a remote area, or you got lost deep in the woods while hiking or camping, having a way to procure food would be a major bonus. Combined with setting snares, hunting, and foraging, catching fish can provide the necessary calories and protein to keep your body going.
Keep in mind that monofilament fishing line has many survival uses besides catching fish.
Fishing line can be used for:
- Setting snares and traps
- Suspending food and supplies above ground
- Fabric repair
- Setting up a basic tent
Unlike a full fishing rod and reel, the compact and lightweight nature of a survival fishing kit mean you can keep it with you anytime you’re in the wild. They also make great gifts for outdoors enthusiasts and anglers!
A fishing kit is even required by Alaskan state law as part of the survival gear small aircraft must carry when flying within the state. The bush pilots there have a saying “If it’s not on you, its camping gear. If it’s on you its survival gear.’”
Top 5 Survival Fishing Kits
What to look for in a survival fishing kit?
What should you look for in a survival fishing kit?
Survival fishing kits come in many shapes and sizes, from tiny Ziploc pouches to larger watertight tins.
A good kit should have the following:
50 feet or more of 10 – 20 lb. monofilament line. You don’t want to coil the line too tightly though, just enough so that it fits inside your kit. Some people tightly wrap the line around a pen or pencil, but that can lead to twists and kinks in the line – which can be a nightmare to unwind.
A good kit should have a wide variety of hooks.
Besides fishing line, hooks might be the most important part of any kit. They have a tendency to get lost, rust and break – so the more you have the better.
Smaller hooks will work better than bigger hooks in a survival situation. That’s because smaller fish won’t be able to bite onto large hooks, but big fish can still be caught with small hooks. The odds of you being stranded near a lake or stream with trophy-sized fish is slim, but I bet you could find some smaller crappie, trout or bass nearly anywhere.
While some anglers might not approve, having some bait keeper hooks in your kit will allow you to keep your bait on longer – which means less time harvesting bait.
Bobbers aren’t strictly necessary, but they can come in handy when you’re trying to find your line. They also give you a clear indication if the fish are biting.
If you don’t have bobbers in your kit, you can always make one by tying a piece of Styrofoam or cork to your line.
Sinkers are useful for increasing your casting distance and getting your bait to the right depth. A half-dozen sinkers won’t take up much space in your kit but will increase your ability to catch more fish.
They also have a tendency to get lost, so adding more sinkers is a good idea if you have the room to spare. A good pair of fishing pliers are useful for crimping sinkers to your line – as well as many other survival fishing tasks.
People will debate what the best lure is for survival, but in reality, the best lure will be suited to catch fish in your area. Pick lures that will enable to catch a wide variety of fish – small flies and plastic grubs work well.
This one is definitely optional, as you can find worms or other insects to use as bait almost anywhere.
Some kits will come with salmon eggs or Powerbait which can be useful in a pinch. However, they wouldn’t last very long if you were truly stranded, plus you could just as easily use fish guts to help attract fish.
Most compact kits come with everything except a rod and reel. Obviously, a full-size fishing pole would greatly increase your casting ability, but you might not have that luxury in a survival scenario.
You can easily fashion a makeshift pole out of a bamboo pole or plastic jug, or even fish from a handline. There are also compact telescopic poles that work well for backpacking/camping. Some anglers might scoff at these poles, but they work far better than nothing.
How to make your own survival fishing kit
If you’re more of a do-it-yourself type of person, you can easily put together your own survival fishing kit with some basic supplies.
Make sure to include the following:
- 50+ feet of 10 to 20 lb. line
- Variety of hooks (including bait keeper hooks)
- Lures / Bait
- Pair of fishing pliers or multi-tool
- Sturdy watertight container – metal tins work well
- Gill net (more on that later)
An advantage of putting together your own kit is you can tailor it to target the fish species in your region.
Having some know-how about local fish, and how to catch them definitely helps here. If you’re new to fishing, going down to your local fishing tackle shop and talking to some of the pros can help guide you in the right direction.
You can make yourself the best kit on the planet, but if you don’t know how to use it you’re not going to catch anything! Go fishing with your kit a few times – rig up a line and try to land a fish – it’ll give you the confidence and know-how to catch fish in an emergency situation.
Survival Fishing Tips
When fishing recreationally it’s important to always obey the local laws and regulations. Get your fishing license and make sure you’re aware of any size or catch limits.
In a legitimate life-and-death survival scenario, these rules go out the window. You need to do what is necessary to procure calories and survive. That means rigging up multiple limb lines, gill nets, throw nets, or even using explosives.
A survival gill net is a small seine style net used to completely block off a section of a lake, stream or river. It’s held in place by lead weights on the bottom and regularly spaced floaters on top. These nets utilize a diamond patterned mesh which catches fish by allowing them to swim part way through the mesh before becoming trapped behind their gills.
Gill nets are heavily regulated and illegal for recreational fishing in most states. However, they are highly effective in survival situations. Getting one to add to your bug-out-bag or survival fishing kit is worth the cost.
Throw nets are weighted fishing nets that are thrown by hand over an area of water. They’re great for catching bait and smaller fish but can also catch larger fish. Using a throw net effectively takes a bit of skill, so some practice is necessary. This type of net would be very effective for survival, as it doesn’t require bait and can be reused indefinitely.
What fish to target?
In a survival scenario pretty much any fish you can catch will do – beggars can’t be choosers. Rough fish like sucker, bowfin and drum might not taste great, but they’ll help keep you alive!
Of course, the best fish species to target is going to vary by your region. If you live near the coast, you might have access to saltwater fish or salmon. If not you’ll be going for freshwater fish. I’ll focus on freshwater fish that can be found in most states.
Some of the best fish for survival:
The most popular game fish in North America.
Largemouth bass can be found in virtually every state (except Alaska), while smallmouth bass are found in more temperate northern states.
Bass are plentiful, can grow up to 20 lbs., and although most anglers practice catch-and-release they can be pretty tasty if prepared correctly.
Closely related to salmon and char, trout are a highly sought after and tasty freshwater fish. They’re not the easiest fish to catch – in fact, fly-fishing was specifically developed as a method to catch them. There are a wide variety of trout species, from brown to rainbow to brook. They generally prefer cooler rivers and streams and can be found in most states.
Crappie & Bluegill
Crappie and bluegill are closely related fish in the Sunfish family. They’re often referred to as ‘pan-fish’ because they don’t outgrow the size of a frying pan. They’re good eating, are fairly easy to catch and can be found in any decent sized body of water in most states.
Catfish are bottom feeders that can be found living on the bottom of lakes, rivers, and streams. They’re a popular game fish and prized for their tasty, firm meat. The most common species in America is the Channel catfish, which can be found throughout the South, Midwest and Eastern Seaboard. In recent years they’ve also been introduced along the West coast.
Most are within the 2 to 7 lb. range, but fish up to 50 lbs. have been caught. Catfish are an excellent survival fish as they can be caught using a variety of baits, traps or even noodling.
If you find yourself stranded in the Midwest or Northeast, then you could also target Pike, Yellow Perch, and Walleye. If you were in the Pacific Northwest, then Salmon and Steelhead would be an excellent survival fish. Again, it really depends on your location, time of year and fishing gear.
Another thing to consider is that in a true SHTF scenario like a nuclear or chemical attack, waterways may become contaminated. In that case, smaller fish would be a safer option than larger game fish, or you may wish to avoid catching fish in the affected area altogether.
Wrapping it All Up
A fishing survival kit is an essential part of any good outdoor pack or bug-out-bag.
Even a very basic kit gives you the ability to put some food on your plate in a survival situation. Most kits are incredibly small, lightweight and inexpensive, so getting one to keep with you anytime you’re in the wilderness is a no-brainer.
Practicing fishing with your kit, or with similar fishing tackle, is a great way to ensure you have the survival skills necessary for a real emergency.
Also, consider that fishing may not always be a viable way to get food in an emergency. There may not be any bodies of water nearby, or weather could prohibit you from catching any fish. Learning how to trap, hunt and forage for edible plants and insects will greatly increase your chances of survival.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.