7 Fishing Ideas and Tips For When You Don’t Have Gear

Close up of a fisherman catching fish

When the urge to fish strikes, will you be ready?

That sounds like quite an absolute statement, of course, but it’s important to have the know-how necessary to turn an everyday item into a piece of fishing equipment if necessary.

After all, fishing isn’t just a hobby but a skill that you can use as part of your outdoor survival kit.

There are many items that you can repurpose into fishing equipment, and many ways you can catch a fish – even without a formal fishing rod, net, or other equipment. 

There are seven major ways that you can fish, even without your typical arsenal of fishing supplies by your side. 

7 Fishing Ideas and Tips For When You Have Zero Gear

1. Fish By Hand

It doesn’t matter whether you are new to fishing or an award-winning expert – knowing how to fish by hand is a skill that very few of us have mastered. 

Luckily, there are a lot of misconceptions about this. Some people believe that you need to be absolutely “in the zone” or some kind of Zen state in order to catch a fish by hand. 

That, fortunately, is not the case. 

Hand fishing works well, but only for certain species of fish. Slow-moving bottom-feeders like catfish are good targets. 

Also known as noodling, this method of fishing requires you to be fast enough to catch a fish out of the water with your bare hands alone. 

It does take some practice, so try not to stress if you don’t master it on the first try. 

2. Rod, String, and Hook

Businessman with homemade fishing rod, lost island

You can easily make an improvised, DIY survival fishing pole with a makeshift rod, some string, and a basic hook. 

Here are some ideas. 

For your rod, you can use any kind of sturdy wood or other material that can serve as a fishing rod stand-in. 

You will need to attach a string-like attachment – really anything remotely resembling fishing line – such as some twine, stems of seaweed, dental floss, yarn, or shoelaces. 

Your hook can be made out of anything you can sharpen, like a hairpin, sharp twigs, a paperclip, or even a broken pop top. 

Get creative with this, but remember that your results likely won’t be as pretty (and perhaps not as effective) as when you are fishing with your expensive Bass Pro gear. 

That said, beauty and maximum impact probably aren’t your goal here – you just want to be able to fish with a relative amount of success. 

So don’t be a perfectionist – just look to get the job done. 

3. Bowfish with Shoelaces

If you’re out on a hike and find yourself stranded in the woods with nothing to eat, look down at your feet. Chances are, you’re wearing shoes, and chances are, those shoes have shoelaces.

Using a bow and arrow to fish can be tricky, but if you have ever done archery with any kind of success in your lifetime, you might be able to master this craft.

To do this, you will need your shoelaces and some kind of flexible wood for the bow. For the arrows, go on the hunt for twigs that are sturdy enough to hold their own and pierce a fish. 

They should also be relatively straight so that they fire in an even line. 

4. Finding Bait

Finding bait is one of the easiest aspects of fishing when you are without equipment. 

In fact, this is probably something you’ve already done before – ever run out of worms during a productive day out on the boat? 

You likely had to scramble for something else that could be used instead. 

There are all kinds of natural fishing baits you can use in your surroundings. Go on a hunt for worms, snails, and frogs (remember, they like cool, dark, and moist environments). 

Can’t find one of these critters? Simply use an alternative item like a leaf, a food scrap, a safety pin, a dead bug, a piece of jewelry, or a bit of colorful plastic. 

The goal here is to find something flashy and attractive that a fish could be conned into biting.

5. Spearfishing

diver with Norwegian fish

One of the most glamorized and ancient methods of fishing, spearfishing is easy to do when you don’t have any other equipment. 

All you need to do is make an improvised spear. This can be done using some kind of long stick or pole.

Then, you will need to attach a sharp object to it, like a piece of broken glass, a scissor blade, some scrap metal, or even a pocket knife. 

Just keep in mind that, to be successful at spearfishing, you will need to have good reflexes and a sharp eye for detail and movement in the water. It can be even more tricky than hand fishing, so be careful!

6. Net Fishing

Net fishing is another option. You will have to make a net out of some kind of material, though, so keep in mind that you might need to sacrifice your shirt for the cause. 

You can tear your shirt into narrow strips to make a net, but make sure the cloth is sturdy and without holes. Then you can knit it into your net. 

After making your net, attach it to a long pole or stick and continuously pass it through the water to “troll” for fish. 

7. Making Traps and Dams

Old fish trap on ground

A tried-and-true method of catching fish without a pole is to make your own dams or traps. To do this, you will need to wait until there’s a catch to be had. 

Block off any running water by creating a dam from branches or twigs. Then, dig a waterway next to it – the fish will end up trapped there. 

If this doesn’t work well the first few times you try it, consider adding some bait, like worms or crushed-up snails. 

Be Creative

These hacks will help you catch a fish in a pinch. If you’re creative and have a little bit of time on your side, you can make just about anything into a fish-catching machine. 

So the next time you head out into the great outdoors, consider leaving your bulky fishing pole at home – and see what you can find in the wild. 

On Key

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