Survival Fishing Kit: Worth the Time or Useless Gear?

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Imagine a gathering of 10,000 preppers at a convention somewhere in the heart of Las Vegas and at that convention every single prepper had brought their own fully stocked bug out bag. The same bug out bags that each person had diligently packed using checklists gleaned from various prepping blogs, YouTube videos and their own personal experience. I would bet that a high percentage of them, maybe 90% or greater would have one very simple piece of gear in there somewhere along with the fire-steel, water filters, emergency blankets and survival knives. They would all have a survival fishing kit.

The survival tin, which is usually the container for the survival fishing kit is I think one of the most discussed pieces of gear in prepper circles. A quick search on YouTube finds well over 100,000 videos of preppers showing the contents of their tins, opening up the survival tins they receive from internet shopping and discussing the range of life saving implements they have been able to squirrel away in the confines of these small boxes.

I think the survival tin is so popular for a couple of reasons. They are really simple to make, just grab an assortment of items that you think can help you out if you are ever faced with some life or death survival scenarios. All you need, generally speaking are items that many of us already have lying around our homes somewhere. I put the contents of a sample survival kit below.

  • SurvivalKit

    A survival tin has an assortment of items that you think can help you out if you are ever faced with some life or death survival scenarios.

    Rubber Band

  • Small flashlight
  • Waterproof matches
  • Leatherman Micra
  • Ziploc bag
  • Wire saw
  • Basic sewing kit
  • Tissues
  • Survival fishing kit
  • Safety pins
  • Mirror – for signaling
  • Pencils
  • Compass
  • Can opener
  • Emergency whistle
  • Small candle
  • Snare wire
  • Flint and tinder
  • Water purification tablets
  • Spare knife

Most of us can see the utility in having these items in our possession. The survival tin is designed to hold this potentially life-saving gear in a relatively compact form that is easy enough to slip in your pocket everyday as you head out the door. This is a mandatory part of many prepper’s EDC gear and I agree that if you had this in your pocket and were dumped in the middle of nowhere, next to a river at 0 Dark 30, you would be much better off than someone who had nothing. At least you could use the flashlight to see your way to using your flint and tinder to make a fire. Then you could take the survival fishing kit to catch a nice big trout for your sustenance. But for the rest of us who aren’t subjected to the life of a hypothetical Bear Grylls episode and aren’t dropped anywhere, does a survival fishing kit make much sense at all or is it wasting space in our bug out bags, backpacks and pants pockets? Is it giving you a false hope for food that might never materialize?


A survival fishing kit doesn’t have to be complicated or take up too much space.

Does it make sense to have a survival fishing kit in your Bug out Bag?

I am not a big fish eater to be perfectly honest, but I grew up fishing with my friends in the neighborhood where we lived. In our area we had two fairly decent sized lakes within a short walk through the woods. In these lakes, we caught plenty of brim, crappie, bass and even a catfish or two. I completely understand the rationale behind having a way to catch fish as food and if you get lucky, a decent sized fish or even several smaller fish could provide a nice meal which if you are starving, could save your life.

There are dozens of survival fishing kits already assembled.

But fishing isn’t just as simple as throwing a hook into the water. Along with that survival fishing kit, you need the right bait, a good bit of luck and a small amount of skill and patience. Come to think of it, a lot of hunting activities share those traits. I think that many preppers assume that if they only have that handy little survival fishing kit in their bags they will be bringing a feast back to the campsite with ease. This is yet another one of the myths that I think preppers believe about bugging out to the woods.

I think that having the ability to even try your hand at fishing during a survival situation is going to come down to several factors but the top two that come to mind are your location and your availability to fish. Are you bugging out where there are any lakes, ponds or rivers with fish in them? Are you on the move? Can you stop and risk the exposure of fishing? Can you afford to alert others with a fire and the smell of fresh fish cooking? How large is your group?

You might argue that the supplies you need for a good fishing kit are so small and insignificant when it comes to weight that they are good to have anyway. I can buy that, but I think that some people are hanging their hopes on their perceived ability to put food on the blanket and simply having some hooks, weights and fishing line in your survival tin doesn’t guarantee you will catch anything or even find a place to fish in the first place.

What goes into a good survival fishing kit?

The contents of a survival fishing kit are pretty basic and true to the survival tin idea, they don’t need to take up much space. Could you fashion your own hooks with a soda can tab or natural materials and leave the fishing kit at home? Sure but for the size and weight I would rather have the real thing. Fishing line is hard to replicate in nature and it really doesn’t cost much at all to put these supplies together.

A good survival fishing kit should have at a minimum:

  • 50 ft. of sturdy mono-filament fishing line. 20lb test or higher will reduce the chance of it breaking. You can use a stick to wrap your line around similar to how a kite string works.
  • Assorted hooks for the fish in your area
  • Bobbers or you can use any material that will float like a piece of Styrofoam or wood.
  • Sinkers
  • Fishing lures or fake worms, whatever works best for your area. If you don’t know just ask the guy behind the counter at the place you are buying the fish hooks.

If you have fishing supplies at home, this should be easy to pull together or if you would rather buy a pre-built kit they have plenty of survival fishing kits online and most are less than the price of a meal out. Knowledge of basic knots that won’t come undone easily will help you here also. It would really suck to finally catch a nice fish only to have the hook come off the line as you are nearing shore and your dinner swim away into the deep.

So what is my answer to the question I posed at the beginning? I think because they are so compact and could give you the ability to catch fish if the right situation presented itself, a survival fishing kit makes a good addition to your bag. I would only expect to be able to use this in certain situations/locations though and not as a reliable source of food for survival. It’s the same with snares and traps, they can catch game for you but you have to be incredibly lucky to have an animal wander through the woods to your trap in the first place so don’t bet the farm on these two methods unless you are already living remotely well before the collapse. These make good supplies to have in my opinion, but not realistic food gathering options unless you are extremely lucky in a bug out scenario. Once the dust has settled and you are all living like nomads, then a good fishing kit would be a great idea.

What do you think?


  1. BobW

    July 24, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    Its not very often that mine and Pat’s view points diverge on most rainy day topics. This is one of those times.

    I see a fishing setup (that I don’t currently have prepared) as an essential part of a bug out kit.

    Just like a rifle capable of taking down local/regionally available game, snares and fishing gear are purely means for procuring edibles. It matters not whether conditions at any given moment support fishing for food, it matters that you have the tool available when the situation presents itself. If you live in the desert, fishing might not be a viable means of procuring food. So far, everywhere I have lived in this expansive nation supported fishing for food.

    I guess I look at it from the flipside. What if you can’t locate any suitable game to shoot or snare? You are not going to lay down and die. You are going to shift gears and seek out other edibles, such as plants, berries, and if opportunity presents itself, fish.

    If I was lucky enough to have a shack in the woods, there is no question that I would have good quality fishing gear on hand. But fishing is a recreational activity. Fishing for survival is not recreation, it well could be life. A pole beats a stick for ensuring product makes it to shore, but if you and your team’s lives are on the line, would you really want to put them on a single fishing line with a worm?

    Netting, stringers with multiple lines and hooks, and other creative solutions provide better odds of landing a fish, and should be researched further.

    • Pat Henry

      July 27, 2015 at 8:46 am

      Thanks for your comments Bob and please know that I always welcome opposing views. I don’t know everything and can always learn new information, get a different perspective and even have my mind changed. That is one of the reasons I allow and welcome comments on this site for just that type of dialog. I want everyone to be able to join in on the conversation for any topic and thank you again for your thoughts.

      • BobW

        July 27, 2015 at 6:52 pm

        Pat, I’m sure that 95% of those providing comment figured out a long time ago that most of your posts are written in a way to spur dialog.

        Everyone has a different vision of how they would put food in front of their team. Hearing how others do it, or would do it exposes us to different thought processes, and hopefully expands a few minds along the way.

  2. Bolofia

    July 24, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Just a few observations from a desert rat – for what they are worth:
    First, I have enjoyed high mountain lake fishing for trout for many years. There is, unquestionably, a certain skill required and it does not come without practice and patience.

    Second, the prospect of surviving based on one’s fishing skills requires that they first have access to a lake or stream that has fish. If you are so blessed with this access, more power to you (and please put lemon pepper on the ones you grill for me).

    Thirdly, it just doesn’t make sense to me that anyone would stock their BOB with fishing gear if they have a bug out route that will never take them within range of any body of water that contains fish.

    Finally, because I live in an arid area, I can think of dozens of uses for fishing line (6 to 20 pound test) that has nothing to do with fish, Trip lines, game snares, suspension lines on trees for items that you need to hang from branches, etc. Fishing line has abundant uses and it is disposable. It enables you to conserve other kit items, such as other types of cordage that could be equally vital to your survival. It weighs virtually nothing and takes very little space in the bag.

    Bottom line: I have no plans to carry a fishing pole on my bug out route, but I do carry about 300 yards of fishing line.

    • Pat Henry

      July 27, 2015 at 8:51 am

      Good points Bolo. I wasn’t thinking about the other uses of fishing line, but you do make a good argument for bringing some along with you. At the end of the day I think a survival fishing kit shouldn’t be large enough to even worry about really and that is the point I tried to outline in my article. I would pack one considering where I live but like Bob said above, and what I was trying to convey is that I wouldn’t count on them for food. If I was able to fish, would I? Absolutely, but I was trying to say that just because you pack a fishing kit that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to feed yourself with it. The title might have been too argumentative for my message.

      Again, great points about the duality of gear and looking at what you pack from a couple of different perspectives.


  3. Thomas Paine in the butt

    July 25, 2015 at 12:26 am

    “…I need a pocket fisherman…help me Mr Popiel…” – Weird Al

    A basic fishing kit can fit in a travel size aspirin bottle or the hilt of one of those tacticool survival knives, sarcasm intended. A proper rod and reel would make a good addition to the vehicle cache.

    • Pat Henry

      July 27, 2015 at 8:52 am

      Thomas you always seem to have the perfect song to go with these articles. I’m going to try to stump you on the next one….

  4. David Benjamin Donoho

    July 25, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Once upon a time I was fishing (cast and reel) up in the mountains in a pond and happened to snag about five feet of line and a fly that someone else had previously lost. I am not an avid fisherman (all together I have maybe fished ten times in my 34 years). And I had never done any kind of fly fishing. But I got curious in this instance and I wrapped the end of the line around my pointer finger a few times and flipped the fly out about four feet from shore. I waited… and sure enough a trout took the fly. I jerked back and snagged him. It wasn’t huge but it sure would have been enough to supply a day or two worth of life in a dire situation.

    The way I see it, with all the work it takes to make a good BOB, we are already taking a gamble on every piece of equipment we have in there. That is the whole point, to be as prepared as you can be for a whole world of the unknown. And the small amount of investment in time, money, and space in your BOB may or may not make sense for you. But it is entirely possible that a fly and five feet of line could keep you alive another day or with any luck, a whole lot more.

    • Pat Henry

      July 27, 2015 at 8:54 am

      Thanks for sharing your comments David and I think you are absolutely right. I came to the same conclusion in the article and hopefully that came across.

      It sounds like you did have some luck that day. That’s the kind of story you tell around the campfire about how you caught a fish with nothing more than your finger and some line you fished off the bottom of the river.

  5. NRP

    July 25, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    Probably nobody is going to like this post…. I see “fishing” for survival in a BOB as not a very good idea, here is why. If your in a Bug-Out situation how are you going to have time to fish? How are you going to conceal yourself at the edge of a lake or river/stream and not be seen while trying to hook that Big-En? If one is “bugging-out” there will probably be 10,000 doing the same thing, fishing, I would think that any fishing hole would be more crowded than the 4th of July weekend. Now here is the Controversial part, If I’m bugging out and have no food supply left First of all stupid me, Second I’m not going to “play by the rules of fishing Hook Line Bobber Sinker, I’m going to toss a small explosive in the lake and see what floats up, that should take all of about 3 seconds and since it’s underwater nobody will hear it. Additional that fishing pole or whatever is cool to carry around for 30 days till you find a secluded spot to fish, but that small hunk of boom-boom will do the job quick, and of course is great for other uses unlike that fishing pole..

    • Pat Henry

      July 27, 2015 at 8:56 am

      Thanks NRP,

      Yes, this one generated a little more controversy if you can call it that than I was expecting, but that is a good thing. Everyone has a different opinion on what works for them and as it pertains to their experience and regional location who is to say who has the right idea? Again, one of the things I like is reading the conversations in the comments. Thanks for contributing!


  6. Pat Henry

    July 27, 2015 at 9:16 am

    I received these great tips from a reader through my contact page, but wanted to share them with everyone here.


    In my eyes I am a pretty darn good fisherman, having caught fish everywhere from Outdoor Trade Shows in Ohio to Alaska. Today’s article and picture of ice fishing gear compelled me to offer a few suggestions:

    – First, I would recommend a “foam” bobbers vs. traditional red/white plastic bobbers. Why? Foam will not break if it hits a rock in/along a stream

    – Second, smaller hooks are a must and will catch big fish too. Big hooks make it harder to catch smaller fish

    – Third, smaller sinkers – aka split shot – makes less of a splash when it hits the
    water. Smaller shot also takes up less space and you can store more of them and
    thus store more for back up purposes.

    – Artificial lures require a full fledge fishing rod in order to perform properly. It is
    almost impossible to make them work while attached to a hand line (see
    imitation fish lure with hook).

    * You may want to consider a fishing line alternative to monofilament called spyder wire. It is made of a synthetic material, is thinner than mono, and in my opinion is superior to mono as it will not become brittle over time and is very abrasion resistant.

    Sorry if I offended anyone or did not grasp the intent of the article properly.

  7. O.M. Knutson

    July 27, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Dear Pat,

    I know it is anecdotal, but from my 60 years of field experience I can tell you having a supply of fishing gear is more than worthwhile .. even in the desert!

    I have trimmed snares with a few treble hooks, set them around active small game borrows and snagged rabbit and other edible varmints. Once I even hooked a rattlesnake for dinner!

    When there are waterways close when you are lost or stranded, having a moderate supply of fishing tackle should be a no brainer. The truth is, fishing is easier and more productive hunting. Sure, you need to break some game laws by setting multiple unattended trot lines or limb lines, but we are talking survival not sport fishing.

    Like setting snares or primitive traps the rule is, “The more hooks and bait in the water, the higher the odds you will eat!”

    Yours truly,
    Orrin M. Knutson
    Author of; Survival 101 – How to Bug Out and Survive the First 72 Hours.

    • BobW

      July 27, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Thanks, Orrin. I couldn’t think of the right term for a trot line. Dropping 5-10 lines in the water, then retreating to cover, or just moving on with your day, then circling back in the afternoon would provide passive food procurement that runs akin to setting snares. There are no assurances of either making it happen, but you’ve increased your food procurement opportunities by at least a factor.

    • Pat Henry

      July 28, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Thank you very much for the comments Orrin and for reading the article. I agree that all things being considered, a small survival fishing kit does makes sense in your bug out bag.

  8. northern raider

    July 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    I long ago dumped the micro fishing kit in a tin ( line, weights, hooks etc) and packed my kit according the geography of where I was going. So when in NV or KS or AZ I see no point in carry fishing kit, but up to the north eastern US or back home in England where I have coastline, rivers, lakes, streams and ponds aplenty I now carry one of those telescopic one piece fishing rod kits complete with reel.

  9. northern raider

    July 27, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    FYI in the army we used to go fishing with firecrackers, bangers and thunder flashes in plastic bottles, the small explosive concussion stuns any near by and brings them to the surface.

  10. BobW

    July 27, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    What do you all think of assembling the spare parts needed to build a legit “Gilligan’s Island” fishing pole in the field as a bob item for a group?

    So I got thinking. I have a kid sized closed face reel in the garage. Would it make any sense to find a comparable small reel & short rod, remove the reel and eyelets, and pack them into a small pouch to attach to the side of the BOB? The thought for me is that with a bit of looking, I suppose I can find a decent sized tree limb between here and wherever that would be suitable enough with some manipulation to build a fishing pole assembly that would support reeling in trot lines or just fishing.

    After carrying my half-packed BOB around, I fully understand that weight matters. For me, I fully expect to have four people with me during any bug out. I ruled out carrying tents sufficient for everyone after adding a Kelty 2-man tent to one of the BOBs. If we work like a rifle squad, and aside from pre-determined personal items, everyone carries a suitable piece of squad gear, the weight gets distributed, and a few key add-ons can be included in the loadout.


  11. Timrules

    December 14, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    I’m not sure if it really makes sense for a BOB, as you can easily survive for 3 days without any food (at all) – shelter and water are higher priorities.

    That said, it sure is a nice to have … depending on what you are planning for (will you be on the run, will you be hunkering-down, will you be going to a stocked location, etc.), I think the value of it would be more as something to do (to stave off boredom) rather than as a viable means for providing food … and you might get lucky.

    If you are looking at something for longer-term survival, you realistically would want something far more elaborate (nets or weirs, multiple lines, etc).

    And +1 for Spider Wire … right up there with 550 cord.

  12. Mace Jordan

    March 3, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    the effectiveness of a survival fishing kit depends on ones knowledge of fishing. being here in the usa for instance. i know that
    the largemouth bass is found in every state other than alaska. because i live in the eastern united states. i know that the largemouth will be
    especially abundant. i also know that these fish are extremely adaptable,creeks,medium and large rivers, ponds,lakes etc, in terms of
    lakes and ponds they like to inhabit areas where there is ‘cover’ when they hunt for pray. tree stumps and logs,water lily pads, weed
    beds,edges. they like to stay near to the shore as well,especially when there isnt a lot of vegetation in the water. they are also likely to be
    more active depending on the temperature of the water. the largemouth likes to feed on smaller fish. and knowing a little about the behavior and appearance of the fish they like to eat. it can be very easy to emulate bate and create a lure. the bass is very opportunistic it will
    pray on frogs,crayfish etc. creates that are easily caught in their respective season.
    the effectiveness of traps and snares is almost
    entirely dependent upon ones ability to recognize specific signs of a particular animals habitation in a given environment. knowing when they will be most active and what they will be doing at a given time of year. so knowledge of tracking is the key to your success with traps and snares.

    that being said. with the right knowledge. some high tensile strength fishing line and a thorn bush (and many other examples) become a good fishing kit.

    so, mr. bug out bag/survivorman/online,’all the right cliche’ survivalist guy. can have
    all the bug out gear in the world. and it wont do him any good. but in the hands of the real deal? fishing kit,,,easily can make the difference between life and death

  13. Mace Jordan

    March 4, 2016 at 12:44 am

    people survived having only their brain for thousands of years.

  14. Mace Jordan

    March 4, 2016 at 1:24 am

    have you ever looked up “survival knife” on google images. thats the kind of thing your seeing everywhere you look online virtually. only you may not even realize it. let me tell you something lol. commercial marketers will sell your soul! to make a buck..K?
    My “survival knife” is the ka-bar becker bk9 and a leatherman wave. with the bk9 there is no problem finding dry wood when its been raining all night. i can split +5 inch diameter logs (without a baton if i want). i can make a shelter easily. without any repetitive action to dull the blade. because i can take a small tree down with just a few precise cuts.

  15. Mace Jordan

    March 4, 2016 at 2:45 am

    and one last thing,, in a ‘real’,survival situation. finding water is virtually “do or die”. that being said,,,ask yourself now my friend.. should you have a survival fishing kit in your bag?

  16. Mace Jordan

    March 4, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    ….just one last thing to add to my last post… if you carry a bottle of alcohol for, a stove and disinfectant. you can collect some pine resin by scaring a few trees. and collect pine resin that is already present. using the alcohol as a solvent. you can dissolve the pine resin in the alcohol. now you have ten times as much fuel,a disinfectant that will stick to your wound having a long term effect,glue, and a way to make damp tinder go up like a prairie fire etc

    k, just thought i would through all that out ther

  17. BothSidesNow

    March 15, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Living in Ontario, Canada…i definitely would have a fishing kit and in a survival situation a gill net (against the law)

  18. Mace Jordan

    March 16, 2016 at 3:10 am

    In a survival situation? a gill net is against the law huh lol

  19. Algernon Sydney

    April 18, 2016 at 1:26 am

    Living in a region where I am never more than ten miles from a freshwater river, stream, lake or other body of water that has fish in it the survival fishing kit is my primary food getting resource. There are multiple game animals and animals that are edible though not generally hunted for sport. Being an avid hunter I’m very realistic about the chances of being able to survive just on hunted meat. As for plants there just aren’t that many that provide sustenance and those that do are very seasonal.
    With an emphasis on fishing I have a dozen speedhook snares and six ‘auto fisher’ reels. My intent would be to set them all up in various places in the body of water as one would set up several snares in a given location. Along with 300 yards of spider wire 15/4, 75 assorted hooks, 50 assorted sinkers and 25 assorted swivels and artificial lures and baits I feel pretty god about feeding myself. To complete the fishing kit I have a Schrade Old Timer 970T Trapper folding knife with a saw blade and an assortment of plasters in case of the inevitable nicks, cuts and pokes that accompany a day of fishing…Any other gear I need is in my first aid kit and available elsewhere in my bag. The kit may seem fairly bulky as a survival/emergency kit but when it comes to food collection I don’t find the extra weight or volume to be unreasonable.

  20. equippedcat

    June 8, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Mono filament line is a good choice if you are using a rod and reel, but it has a few problems for including in your survival kit or BOB. First of all, it has a bit of a memory, so if you have it compactly stored, it will not straighten out well. Second, it does not knot well; not a problem for fishing (if you know the right knots), but not as useful for other purposes. In a survival kit, braided lines overcomes these problems.

    So, even though I live in the desert, I would always have a fishing kit, using braided line, and including a needle or two so the fish line could be used as thread.

    When people think of fish hooks, they generally think of the classic “J” hook. And these are very good for “active” fishing, where the fisherman “jerks” the line to “set” the hook. They are not as good for “passive” fishing (trot lines) since there is nothing to set the hook. For passive fishing, “circle” hooks are better, as the fish tends to turn away after hitting the bait, and that action sets the hook. Of course, this style of hook is of limited use when active fishing, because a jerk to set it will just pull it out.

  21. Bert

    June 21, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    The hooks and line can be used to catch small mammals and birds if you’re situation is that dire. It’s survival not camping. Better to have & not need than visa versa. Be prepared…

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