How to Catch Fish Without a Rod and Reel

Finding and catching food is one of the most vital skills needed for keeping yourself alive in a survival situation. But without a rod, how can you get fish from the water to your plate?

Using a net is the best way to catch fish without a rod. If you don’t have a net, use a baited hook tied to a fishing line. If needed, you can craft a hook out of sharp objects and use shoelaces, string, twine, or clothing thread as a makeshift line. 

There are many methods and tricks to catch fish without a rod. In the article below, we will discuss the best options for providing a consistent food source! 

Hook and Line Methods

Catching fish doesn’t require fancy rods and reels to be successful. There are plenty of tried and true techniques for catching fish at your disposal with a hook, fishing line, and the right bait. Don’t have hooks or fishing lines? That is OK, as there are ways to craft them out of your available materials. 

When it comes to fishing with hooks and lines, you can improve your odds for success by taking a few preparation steps. These steps include:

  • Use the right bait. If the fish don’t like what you are selling, chances are they won’t be biting. Ideally, you will know what the fish eat by physically watching them feed. But generally speaking, freshwater fish will bite on worms, crickets, grasshoppers, leeches, crayfish, and minnows. Some excellent options for saltwater fish include crabs, squid, small fish, sea worms, eel, and shrimp. Whatever you choose, make sure it is a bait that looks natural to the fish. 
  • Find the fish. You can have the best fishing equipment on earth, but you aren’t catching anything if the fish aren’t there. Most anglers will agree that cover and changes are the best to look for when finding most fish species. Some examples of cover include big rocks, logs, tree branches, and random debris. The change consists of in-depth drop-offs, watercolor, and raises to the bottom. 
  • Fishing at the right time. If you are starving and desperate to catch a fish, it is understandable that you will be fishing around the clock to acquire as many as possible. But as a helpful tip, fish activity tends to pick up in the early morning and just before sunset. Due to the reduced light, cooler waters, and lower visibility, the prey activity increases and your opportunities for a bite. However, there are species of fish that are typically more active at night, such as catfish. 

Improvised Hooks and Fishing Line

You never know when the need to catch fish to survive is going to present itself; chances are you won’t have a fishing line and hooks with you at all times. If you find yourself without these items and need to improvise, here are some examples of things you can use to improvise.

Fishing Line

  • Twine
  • String
  • Shoelaces
  • Pieces of clothing
  • Long and robust pieces of grass

Fishing Hooks

  • Paper clips
  • Soda can tabs
  • Pins
  • Needles
  • Bones
  • Strong wood

Hand Line

The first method is what most people picture when they think about how fishing is supposed to look. You remove the rod and reel from the equation. Tie a hook to your line, add bait to the hook, and send it into the water. You can use a sturdy stick as a makeshift pole for more control as an added tip.

Limb Lining

Limb lining is an effective method for catching fish as it allows you to try multiple locations and bait simultaneously to identify what is working. 

  1. Start by identifying the best locations where fish are likely to gather.
  2. Tie fishing lines with a hook on the opposite side to tree branches or anything that hangs over the water.
  3. Drop the baited hooks into the water around two to three inches below the surface in the afternoon.
  4. Check your hooks to retrieve your fish and replace the bait in the morning.

Rig your lines near features like deep pools, log jams, or deep banks for maximum efficiency. Limb lining is an excellent method to test out multiple locations and bait. 

Trot Lining

Trot lining is another effective method for catching fish without a rod, especially when you know the area holds a lot of fish. Follow the steps below and nail the fish with a highly efficient trotline:

  1. Locate a body of water that you know holds fish. If you aren’t sure, use your best judgment and readjust based on your success. 
  2. Tie evenly spaced dropper lines with hooks onto a long cord or rope to extend across the water.
  3. Bait your hooks and extend the mother rope or cord across the targeted area. Like limb lining, it is best to bait and set the line in the late afternoon. Make sure your dropper lines are weighted to drop around two to three feet into the water if possible.
  4. In the morning, pull your trotline in and retrieve your fish. Once completed, add bait and set the line back out for the next day. 

Trot lining is a fan favorite throughout the commercial and sport fishing community. The effectiveness has even caused it to be banned in many states throughout the US.

Jug Fishing

Another excellent method for catching fish is a method known as jug fishing. If you have any bottle or jug that floats, you can use the jug fishing approach. Unfortunately, trash is not hard to find when out in the wilderness that you can use to your advantage. Jug fishing works like this:

  1. Find a jug or bottle that floats above the water.
  2. Secure a line with a hook to the jug or bottle.
  3. Bait the hook and drop it two to three feet below the surface late in the day for maximum efficiency.
  4. In the morning, retrieve your floating bottle or jug from the water and retrieve fish along with adding bait to the hook. 

Can Reels

A can reel doesn’t necessarily have to be a can. It can be anything that a line can be tied to and rotated to rewind the line. It works by connecting the line securely to a can. Once the line is secured, throw the baited hook on the opposite end of the line into the water. Use the can, or rotating object, to reel the line back in for your next cast! 

Catching Fish with Nets

Fishing with a net is the best option if you are lucky enough to have one with you. Nets come in all shapes and sizes, each serving a specific purpose. The situation you find yourself in will determine which net is best to have with you. Here are a few types of nets that you can use for catching fish effectively.

Gill Nets

Gill nets are a highly effective form of catching fish and all kinds of marine life from the water. They are so effective that many countries and states have banned their use due to the harm they can cause to aquatic animals. 

Gill nets are mesh nets that you string across a body of water. For practical use, find areas that have a high traffic of fish. The holes in the net are just big enough for a fish head to fit into. The fish’s gills will get stuck as they swim into the net, effectively trapping them. 

Trawling Nets

A trawl net comes in the shape of a bag. It works by dragging it through the water and catching anything that gets in its path. You then pull it to the surface to retrieve your fish. Trawling nets are most common when dragged by a boat or vessel. However, the same principles apply when you use one on your own. 

Hand Nets

hand net for fishing

A hand net is also commonly referred to as a scoop or dip net. It is what you picture when you think of a fishing net to scoop up your catch as you reel it in close. Without a rod, you can use the hand net to scoop fish near the surface of the water. At minimum, a hand net can also scoop up some bait to catch the bigger fish. 

Casting Nets

A casting net is a round or circular net containing weights around the edges that sink it to the bottom. A casting net, or throw net, is connected to a rope and then tossed into the water. As it flies through the air, the net expands for maximum coverage. As the net is hauled back in, the fish become trapped inside. 

Alternatives for Nets

Having a net is the best-case scenario for survival and catching food. They are incredibly versatile and can have so many beneficial uses. But if having a net with you is not a luxury you have available, here are some materials that you can use to build one of your own. 

  • Clothing
  • Paracord
  • Tarps
  • Intertwined branches

Fishing with Traps

fish trap

Fishing traps, also known as fishing weirs, are a time-consuming but effective method for fish retrieval. There are many techniques and gadgets that you can use to construct fish traps. The section below will list some of the most popular methods.

  • Soda Bottle Trap
  • Basket Traps
  • Funnel Traps
  • Tidal Traps
  • Wood Weirs
  • Pole Traps

The foundations of these traps, except the soda bottle trap, are to corral fish into a small and shallow area. Once you have them cornered and easily accessible, you can use a spear to pull them out or bludgeon them with a log or stick. 

Spearing Fish

Spearing fish is a primitive but excellent method for catching dinner when you have shallow and clear water with lots of fish available. The best approach for spearing fish is to slowly wade into the waters where the fish are located or creep along the banks. Once you have discovered some fish or they begin to swim around you, use your spear to strike into one and pull it from the water.

You can craft a spear out of a long and sturdy stick by sharpening one end into a point. Tying a knife or pair of scissors to the end of your spear can make it even more effective and lethal. 

Fishing With Your Hands

Fishing with your hands is often called noodling and is an up-close and personal method for catching catfish. It works by locating a fish hiding under covers, such as a rock or log. Once you find the fish, stick your hand into its mouth and then drag it out of the water. You can hold the bait in your hands or use your finger to attract the fish to bite. 

Final Words

There is an important thing to note for any of the methods we discussed that require you to leave your lines, nets, or traps and return at a later time. Easy meals will attract other predators. So, when you go to retrieve your catch, be sure to stay on alert for other wildlife enjoying the fruits of your labor. 

All of the options we have discussed are effective means of fishing without a rod. Now that you know all the ways to catch them, you can prepare accordingly before taking off on your next adventure.