5 Alternative Ways to Catch Fish Without a Rod and Reel

5 Alternative Ways to Catch Fish Without a Rod and Reel

5 Alternative Ways to Catch Fish Without a Rod and Reel

In the event of a life altering natural disaster, EMP, or power grid failure - foraging and hunting for food will become a full-time job. Understanding alternative ways to get food will help you not only survive, but thrive in these situations.  

This article covers the five best ways to catch fish with limited to no fishing materials. 


A man underwater with a fish on a spear

Spearfishing is an ancient fishing method that has been around for decades. It’s become a popular sport over the years but in a survival scenario, it could serve as the best way to catch fish without requiring a ton of materials that would weigh you down.  

There are two primary strategies to spearfishing based on the type of spear you have (or built). A Hawaiian Sling is the best method but they’re not as easy to make. It works like a bow and arrow with a shaft and holder. At the end of the shaft is a rubber sling that will release when you’ve locked in on a fish.  

Aim the spear with your non-dominant hand and pull the sling from inside the shaft. When you’re ready, release the sling and it will shoot out and wrap around your target.  

I recommend including a Hawaiian Sling as one of your emergency preparedness items, but if you don’t have one you could use a pole spear as well.  

A pole spear is simply a sharpened piece of wood or metal with three prongs at the end. At the butt end you’ll use a large rubber band to build up energy and release the pole with enough power and force to paralyze your target. 

Fish Weir

If you find yourself near a moving body of water with limited materials, building a weir could be the best way to catch fish on autopilot while you do other things. A weir is a stone trap designed to trap fish that flow down the current but they need to be designed in a very specific manner to prevent fish from escaping.  

A double heart design like the one below is the best way to do this. It creates two openings which ensures that all the fish in the second opening are not able to escape.  

A fish weir

You can build these as little or as big as you’d like but keep time, energy, and resources in mind. The larger you build it, the more rocks you’ll need to find and the more energy and calories you will expend. 

Hand Fishing

Fishing with your hands is easily the most difficult method of catching fish during an emergency but you can do it if you practice and plan accordingly. Noodling or stumping or also terms used to describe this primitive method. It works best for catfish because they don’t move that fast and they tend to live in the shallow murky water that you can access by foot.  

You’ll want to be extra careful not to stir up the water too much. Move slowly and always keep your eyes in the water. Once you’ve reached an area that you think is optimal for catching something, you’ll likely need to rest there for a few minutes and remain as still as possible.

Create a low center of gravity by lowering your body until your butt almost touches the water. This will put you closer to the water because it always looks shallower than it is. When you go to insert your hand into the water, the fish will actually be much further away than you thought.  

For this method to work, you’ll need to have laser fast reflexes and a lot of patience. I would only resort to this strategy if you’re absolutely desperate and can’t find materials for any of the other methods. 


Fish caught in netting in the water

There are three different netting methods. Gill nets, dip nets, and drift nets.  

A gill net is a simple net that you’ll throw into the water and pull back almost instantly to see if you’ve caught anything. It’ll have openings large enough for small baitfish to escape but small enough to catch anything worthy of a decent meal.  

Dip nets are the type of net that most anglers use for fishing everyday. They come with a handle on the end and a large opening with a very coarse netting. If the handle is long enough you can try to use this for sight fishing by standing on the shore and simply watching for fish. When you see one, swoop the net through the water and attempt to catch something.  

Let me be clear here, drift nets are illegal. This method of fishing is 100% illegal so don’t go out practicing this. If you get caught, you’ll get fined. Plain and simple.  

But, in a scenario such as an economic collapse or natural disaster that shuts down stores for an extended period of time, this method will work great.  

Drift nets are nets pinned between two wooden poles that you drive into the ground. You and another person can stand there and hold the net if you want but the best method is to drive the stakes into the ground and let it do the work for you. If you do this downstream, the fish will flow down and get tangled up in the net.

You can catch a lot of fish very quickly with this method. 


A trotline is an interesting strategy but it does require you to prepare ahead of time with some emergency materials. You’ll need large fishing hooks and large line.

Creating a trotline involves stringing the large line from one side of the river to the other and dangling hooks every foot or so along the line with bait.

The goal is to catch fish as they work their way down the river. Sometimes it even happens by accident. 

Final Thoughts

Preparing alternative ways to catch fish without a spinning reel could mean a lot in a survival situation. Fish are plentiful and the methods of catching them are as well.

Just keep in mind that it takes a lot of patience and practice.

It’s never too soon to start preparing.

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