First of all, this writeup is intended mainly to give you, the reader, the basics of fishing for food
. I know that there are already nodes on how to fly fish
and what have you, but the idea behind this one is to let you know how to get a fish
from the water into your possession regardless of the circumstances (within reason, of course). With that in mind, I'm going to put special emphasis on fishing for food in less than the best circumstances; in other words, survival fishing.
Your equipment is going to be very important. First, you're going to need to have a pocketknife. One could easily say that this is the most important piece of survival equipment in existence, and you should never enter the woods without one, whether you're intending to get lost or not. If you go into the woods without a pocketknife, you should probably get to like dying in the middle of nowhere, because it's what you'll be doing for the rest of your life if anything goes wrong. If for some reason you don't have a pocketknife, you can try to sharpen a stone by beating it on another stone, but even if you bang rocks together like a pro it won't be a very successful substitute for an actual pocketknife. So buy a pocketknife without a doubt. Another necessary item is going to be fishing line. About 200 feet of this should also be kept on or near your person at all times when in any sort of wilderness situation. If you can, try to get reasonably strong line; six pound test line is too weak to be anything other than frustrating when big fish snap the line after they're out of the water, so aim for ten to thirty pound test line. A good way to store this if space is an issue is to wrap it around a six-inch length of an old mop handle or some similar piece of wood. This arrangement can also double as a fishing rod if you don't already have one, as we'll see in a bit. If for some reason you haven't got any fishing line, you can try other sorts of twine and string, such as very long shoestrings or baling twine, but once again I really recommend the real thing if you've got it, as it is much less conspicuous to passing fish and will increase your chances of eating exponentially.
Now for the hook. If you've got one, that's great. Tie it to the end of the string as securely as possible; losing hooks without a ready supply of them is not a very good idea.
If you didn't plan ahead and therefore don't have a hook already, you can make one, but it's kind of tough. You'll need metal of some sort. Aluminum cans are especially good and in the polluted world we live in these days you'll probably be able to come up with one even in the woods if you look around your vicinity reasonably hard. Hopefully, your can will still have the pop tab. Remove this. It should look like a figure eight except that there should be a larger circle and a smaller circle (the smaller one is the one that has the little circular doohickey to which the can attaches on it). Using the tools on your pocketknife or just a rock, break the larger circle on the side close to the point where it connects with the mutual side of the two circles. Gently twist this to the side, taking care not to break anything else. It should make a J shape coming off the bottom of the smaller circle. Fold the end of the J inwards in order to form the barb, without which your hook is just a sharp fish-feeding apparatus. If you don't have the pop tab, you can make a similar shape out of the body of the can by cutting it into the shape you want with your pocketknife. In My Side of the Mountain, the hero makes hooks out of twigs glued together, but that's always seemed like bullshit to me, though. However you get a hook, tie the thing to your line as stated above.
Now get some bait. This can be as simple as digging around for a minute until you find a worm, or you can be pickier and look for crickets or minnows or something. I'd go for simplicity, myself. Thread your hook through the body of the worm, folding him over several times if necessary so that he's not hanging off the hook too much anywhere. If he is hanging off, a fish will just take him without biting the hook and then you've got to find another worm.
If you've got line, a hook, some bait, and something the line can wrap around, you're ready to fish. A bobber can help if you've got one, but they're not absolutely necessary. Go to a body of water, preferably one that's not running or is running slowly, as it will be easier to fish there with somewhat primitive equipment. Find some submerged crap of one sort or another (logs, old tires, shady areas--fish love that kind of crap for some reason) and put your hook in the water. Don't worry about casting or anything unless you just want to, as it's not necessary and is just about impossible without a rod. If you only have a short stick that your line is wrapped around, just hold on to it tight and you'll be able to get the fish in by turning it to reel in the line. If you've got a bobber, it will dip sharply under the water if a fish hits your line. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until you feel the tug of a fish taking the bait. Don't worry about little dips and little tugs; those are just the fish investigating your bait rather than actually biting it. Wait until you feel or see a sharp tug and then quickly jerk the line hard to the side to set the hook in the fish's mouth. Reel him out of the water and grab him with your hand, taking care to avoid the sharp ends of the fins with your hands. In fact, if your fish has any sort of spines, you'll want to try not to be poked by them. If it doesn't work the first time, try again until it does. Patience is the key.
If you've done this right, then you'll want to know how to clean a fish, which someone has already taken care of, thankfully.