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Should you include fishing gear in a pocket survival kit?

This pocket-sized box holds all the lures I need for a day of smallmouth bass fishing on Oregon's John Day River.
600 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Check out commercial personal survival kits and you’ll notice many of them include hooks, sinkers and fishing line.

I don’t include sport fishing gear in pocket survival kits, and don’t see much value in fishing equipment as an emergency survival tool. Here’s why.

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by Leon Pantenburg

My friend, Phil Brummett, was showing off. That’s what I told him.

Phil, several other adults and I were accompanying a group of Boy Scouts on a “Ten Essentials” campout. The idea was to survive the night with only the gear you’d carry on a dayhike. Along with the rest of his Ten Essentials, Phil took a reel with flyline, several flies and some paperclips.

Phil whittled a rod from a six-foot willow switch. He made line eyelets out of the paperclips,  and duct taped the eyelets and reel to the rod. He could easily cast 40 feet with it. His son, Jesse, used the setup to catch a nice rainbow trout of a small creek.

Survive this: This pocket-sized box holds all the lures I need for a day of smallmouth bass fishing on Oregon's John Day River.

This pocket-sized box holds all the lures I need for a day of smallmouth bass fishing on Oregon’s John Day River. This collection would be carried in addition to my pocket kit. (Pantenburg photos)

But Phil is not your average outdoorsman.  A professional fly fishing guide in Central Oregon, and the merit badge counselor for the scout flyfishing merit badge, Phil is on the water well over 200 days a year, under all sorts of weather conditions. IMO, Phil can catch fish any where, under any conditions with sport fishing gear.

But that doesn’t mean you or I could have the same kind of  “luck.” I’d guess the average, untrained person would not be able to catch a fish with Phil’s makeshift gear.

But hooks, a piece of line and some sinkers seem to be standard in many pocket survival kits. I’m not sure why that is, other than customers seem to expect them to be included.

From the manufacturer’s viewpoint, a hook line and sinker are three pieces of cheap gear they can include in the kit to boost the item count with little expense. They take up space, and pad the contents list.

 Here are some thoughts about pocket survival kits, and why you don’t need fishing stuff in yours.

A pocket kit should be kept with you at all times as an addendum to a full-blown Ten Essentials pack. Statistics show that most lost people are found within 24 hours of being reported missing, provided they stay put. Play your cards right, and carry food along as part of your essentials, and foraging won’t be necessary. Your pocket kit must be, above all, light and convenient to carry.

Survive this: This survival kit weighs about as much as your IPod. Carry it in a waterproof container for added security.

This survival kit weighs about as much as your IPod. Carry it in a waterproof container for added security. Don’t waste space!

Survival fishing isn’t fair play sport fishing.  If you desperately need to catch fish to survive during a long term survival situation, sportsmanship goes out the window. There are many effective, though highly illegal, ways to catch mass quantities of fish.

I don’t encourage doing anything illegal, and won’t explain unethical ways to gather fish. But check out your state’s fishing regulations. Any illegal activity or technique is probably barred because it works too well!

Return on time investment: In a survival situation, your time and energy are finite resources that must be hoarded and used wisely. Before you spend time fishing, you need to have a shelter finished, firewood gathered, signaling devices set up and a survival plan established. Don’t fritter your time and energy away fishing until all these necessities are in place.

Food value: This is another ROI that needs to be considered. Check out diet plans, and you’ll probably find fish listed as a low calorie food recommendation. Your calories intake will determine your energy level. Your energy will determine if you stay warm and active enough to assist in your rescue.

So do the math: If there is the potential to catch a trout that supplies 100 calories, and you use more than that to stay warm, and burn up 200 calories in the exertion, you’ll soon have an energy deficit.

 Priorities: Immediately upon realizing you are in a survival situation, sit down and come up with a plan for surviving and what your next action will be. Use the STOP exercise. Don’t be distracted by an activity of lesser importance such as fishing.

Chances are, if I’m backpacking in an area with the potential for catching fish, I’ll have along a lightweight rod, reel and the appropriate lures. But when it comes to your pocket gear, take only what you need. Otherwise, the kit gets heavy and bulky, and left in the vehicle.

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3 comments
  • David Bardwell

    Good article, and good points.

    I would just like to add a few points that folks may want to consider.

    One, you prepare for the location you are most likely to be stuck in. If you live in Arizona you probably don’t pack a floatation device, rain gear, or fishing gear in your emergency supplies, but you should have sunscreen. If you are in Alaska or Washington, you most likely don’t need sunscreen, but fishing gear might make sense.

    Two, if you pack the right kind of fishing supplies, you don’t necessarily have to spend a great deal of time fishing. You set your lines and then go do something more useful while letting them do the work for you, just as you would set traps or snares. Then just go check them occasionally as you need to get water or need a break from other things.

    Three, most of the gear you would carry for fishing doesn’t have to be JUST for fishing. Fishing line has multiple uses as cordage and snares and such. Hooks can be used as fasteners, and defensive perimeter systems as well. My point being that I try to never carry anything that doesn’t have multiple (At least 2, but 3-4 preferred) uses, and I try to package them in such a way that even the containers that hold them have multiple purposes as well. In the end you may have a fishing kit on you, but the parts are made up of items that you actually have stored, not in a dedicated fishing kit, but partly in your fire kit, some in your wallet, line built into your belt, etc. You may already have the “fishing kit” there, just spread out among the other items you carry, and may only need to add a single item or two somewhere in there, to complete the set.

    Like the story about using paperclips and a switch for a rod though. That’s great! I may have to attempt that to see if it works for me. Love may make the world go ’round, but duct tape keeps it on the spindle.

    Thank You!

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