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How to Catch and Cook Fish in the Wild

How to Catch and Cook Fish in the Wild

How to catch a fish in the wild, how to cook a fish over a fire, these are all questions that we will be answering in this week’s blog post about bushcraft fishing techniques. While there is nothing better than enjoying freshly caught fish over a fire keep in mind the legalities.

As always, please feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

Catch and cook a fish in the wild

Legalities of catching fish in the wild

If you are going fishing in England or Wales you will need a fishing licence. In Scotland while, for the most part, you don’t need a fishing licence, you will need the landowner’s permission. However, in England and Wales, you don’t need a fishing licence to fish off the beach, provided that you don’t catch certain species.

Also, remember that you should only use the techniques described below to catch fish in a true survival situation; it is illegal to catch fish using anything other than a hook and line in UK rivers.  

For licenses in England and Wales please see the Government site here. For rules surrounding what equipment you can use the UK Government has a breakdown here.  Now that’s the legalities done, let’s have a look at how to catch fish in the wild.

Methods of catching fish in the wild

Remember, these techniques should only be used in a survival situation, now that’s covered let’s take a look at bushcraft fishing techniques.

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Making hooks in the wild

The biggest challenge that the bushcraft practitioner will experience when making hooks in the wild will be making them small enough yet strong enough. In order to overcome this, one of the simplest hooks to make is the gorge hook. The gorge hook is a piece of strong wood or bone sharpened at both ends with the line tied in the middle. The fish then swallows the bait and the hook acts as a toggle inside the fish’s stomach.

Making a fishing line in the wild

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to catching fish in the wild using a hook and line is in making the line. It is always preferable to carry some with you, however, this is not always practical. In such cases, lines can be made from plants, particularly nettles which make a strong natural cord. However, your best bet for making a fishing line in the wild is to use animal hide. 

Learn how to make natural cordage, light a fire, build a shelter and much more on our weekend bushcraft course.
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Catching fish in the wild using traps

In fast flowing rivers and streams, the most effective method for catching fish is by using a trap. Simple funnel traps are particularly effective in rivers of this type. The easiest way to catch fish in the wild using this method is to use interwoven saplings to guide the fish into a narrower and narrower funnel in which the fish are trapped by the force of the water against them. A similar method can be used to guide fish into an eddy on the river.  For more information about catching fish via this method, have a look at our blog on foraging along Scotland’s rivers.  

Cooking your fish in the wild

Catching and cooking fish in the wild

Cooking fish over a stick on a campfire in the wild, is there anything better? While it might seem intimidating at first cooking fish in the wild is actually quite a simple process. But before you can sit back and enjoy cooking your trout on a stick over the fire you need to know how to gut the fish.

How to gut a fish in the wild

Stick your knife into the belly of the fish, just below the gills, and cut downwards towards the tail. Having made the cut insert your finger use it to scoop out the guts. Cut off any bits of the internal organs that are dangling out, and burst the swim bladder – this may be inflated inside. 

How to cook a fish over a campfire

The easiest way of cooking a fish over a fire is to cut off the tail and fins, cutting down the spine – being careful not to sever the spine. Be sure to extend this cut down the side of the fish down behind the gills.  The fish can then be opened up, lifted away from its skeleton and then put on a split stick and roasted by the fire.

Other ways of cooking a fish in the wild

Another method for cooking fish in the wild is to split the fish straight down the middle and then drape each part of the fish over a piece of hard firewood.  The wood, with the fish on it can then be placed in the hot coals of the fire. Be wary though as the fish will not take long to cook using this method. Using either of the above two methods you can easily cook a whole fish in the wild!

Further information

Learn how to prepare fish, light a fire, build a shelter and much more on our
weekend bushcraft course.
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