Backpack Camping and Woodland Survival/Skills/Hunting and gathering/Primitive Fishing

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Hand fishing[edit | edit source]

It is possible to fish with minimal equipment by using only the hands. In the British Isles, the practice of catching trout by hand is known as trout tickling; it is an art mentioned several times in the plays of Shakespeare.

Trout binning is a method of fishing, possibly fictional, performed with a sledgehammer.

Divers can catch lobsters by hand.

Pearl diving is the practice of hunting for oysters by free-diving to depths of up to 30 m.

Hand-line fishing is a technique requiring a fishing line with a weight and one or more lure-like hooks.

Noodling or Stump Fishing is a technique in which the fisher holds the bait in his or her hand and waits for a large catfish to attempt to eat it; when the fish bites, the fisher pulls his or her arm, along with the fish, from the water.

Seafood can be found in coastal zones as well as rivers and lakes around the world. Seafood suitable for gathering by hand includes aquatic invertebrates such as molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms as well as aquatic plants. Some molluscs (shellfish) commonly gathered are oysters, clams, scallops and cockles. Some crustaceans commonly gathered are lobster, crayfish, and crabs. A common plant gathered is kelp. Echinoderms are not gathered as much as mollusks and crustaceans. In Asia, sea cucumber and sea urchins are gathered.

Very little, or no specialized equipment is required to gather many of these sea foods. We would expect to see evidence for shellfish consumption in prehistory, since the discarded shell can remain for long periods. In fact the earliest evidence for shellfish consumption dates back to a 300,000 year old site in France called Terra Amata. This is a hominid site as modern Homo sapiens did not appear until around 50,000 years ago. The importance of shellfish in prehistoric diet has been the source of much debate in archaeology. Sometimes they are referred to as a famine food and their nutritional value is played down at the expense of terrestrial or non-marine food sources.

Some shellfish are gathered by diving. Pearl diving is the practice of hunting for oysters by free-diving to depths of up to thirty metres. Abalone are also gathered by diving. Divers can also catch lobsters by hand.

Spearfishing[edit | edit source]

The methods and locations freedive spearfishers use vary greatly around the world. This variation extends to the species of fish sought and the gear used.

Shore diving[edit | edit source]

Shore diving is perhaps the most common form of spearfishing and simply involves entering and exiting the sea from beaches or headlands and hunting around ocean architecture, usually reef, but also rocks, kelp or sand. Usually shore divers hunt between 5 and 25 meters (about 17 to 83 feet) depth, though it depends on location. In some locations in the South Pacific, divers can experience huge drop-offs from 5 meters up to 30 or 40 meters very close to the shore line. Sharks and reef fish can be abundant in these locations. In more subtropical areas, sharks may be less common, but other challenges face the shore diver, such as entering and exiting the water in the presence of big waves. Headlands are favored for entry because of their proximity to deeper water, but timing entries and exits is important so the diver does not get pushed onto rocks by waves. Beach entry can be safer, but more difficult due the need to consistently dive through the waves until the surf line is crossed.

Shore dives can produce a mixed bag of fish, mainly reef fish, but ocean going pelagic fish are caught from shore dives too, and can be specifically targeted.

Shore diving can be done with trigger-less spears such as pole spears or Hawaiian slings, but more commonly triggered devices such as spearguns. Speargun setups to catch and store fish include speed rigs, fish stringers.

The use of catch bags worn close to the body is discouraged because the bag can inhibit movement, especially descent or ascent on deeper freedives. Moreover, in waters known to contain sharks, it is positively dangerous and can greatly increase the risk of attack. The better option is to tow a float behind, to which is attached a line onto which a catch can be threaded. Tying the float line to the speargun can be of great assistance in the event of a large catch, or if the speargun should be dropped or knocked out of reach.

Blue water hunting[edit | edit source]

Blue water hunting is the area of most interest to elite spearfishers, but has increased in popularity generally in recent years. It involves accessing usually very deep and clear water and trolling, chumming for large pelagic fish species such as marlin, tuna, or giant trevally. Blue water hunting is often conducted in drifts; the boat driver will drop one or more divers and allow them to drift in the current for up to several kilometers before collecting them. Blue water hunters can go for hours without seeing any fish, and without any ocean structure or a visible bottom the divers can experience sensory deprivation. It can be difficult to determine the true size of a solitary fish when sighted due to the lack of ocean structure for comparison. One technique to overcome this is to note the size of the fish's eye in relation to its body - large examples of their species will have a relatively smaller eye.

Notably, blue water hunters make use of breakaway rigs and large multi band wooden guns to catch and subdue their prey. If the prey is large and still has fight left after being subdued, a second gun can be used to provide a kill shot at a safe distance from the fish. This is acceptable to IBSRC and IUSA regulations as long as the spearfisher loads it himself in the water.

Blue water hunting is conducted world wide, but notable hot spots include South Africa (yellow fin tuna) and the South Pacific (dog-tooth snapper). Blue water pioneers like Jack Prodanavich and Hal Lewis of San Diego were some of the first to go after large species of fast moving fish like Tuna.

Without diving[edit | edit source]

These methods have been used for thousands of years. A fisher wades in shallow salt or fresh water with a hand spear. The fisher must account for optical refraction at the water's surface, which makes the fish appear to be further away. By experience, the fisher learns to aim lower to hit the target. Calm and shallow waters are favored for spearing fish from above the surface.[1]

Fish traps[edit | edit source]

A fishtrap is a trap resembling a fishing weir or a lobster trap. It consists of a frame of thick steel wire, usually in the shape of a heart, with chicken wire stretched around it. The mesh wraps around the frame and then tapers into the inside of the trap. When a fish swims inside through this opening, it cannot get out, as the chicken wire opening bends back into its original narrowness. A fishing weir is an ancient type of fish trap that is traceable back to Roman times in the UK. It is also a technology used by, among others, North American Natives and early settlers to catch fish for trade and to feed their communities.

The fishtrap is best placed in shallow water near rocks, where pikes in particular like to lie. The trap is usually very effective for an amateur fisher, if placed correctly. It is usually not necessary to check the trap daily, since the fish remain alive inside the trap, relatively unhurt. Because of this, the trap also allows for the release of undersized fish as per fishing regulations.

Formerly, it has also been constructed of wood and/or wood splints.

  1. Otto Gabriel; Andres von Brandt (2005). Fish Catching Methods of the World. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 53-54. ISBN 0852382804.