Fishing kits for survival, Part 2

The other “critical” component for survival fishing is fish line.  Theoretically, you could use any string-like material you have on hand, but since we are talking “life or death” here, you want to maximize your odds of catching fish.  The best possible fish line is not at all too much.  Even though it has nothing to do with fishing, it is a good idea if your fish line also doubles as thread for emergency clothing or equipment repair.

In Part 1, we saw the large number of choices to make concerning your hooks.  Fortunately, fish line choices are much more limited.  Basically, there is the choice of two types, and then the breaking strength.  Fishing line comes in “mono-filament” and “braided” (multi-filament).

Mono-filament is often the choice in fancy fishing rigs; it is great for casting and being usually translucent, tends to be the least frightening to the fish.  However, not a lot of casting is done from survival kit equipment, and mono-filament tends to have a “memory”.  That is, if you store it tightly wound or hanked, it may be a problem trying to straighten it out.  Plus, it is weaker for any given diameter, so takes up more space for any given breaking strength.  It is “slippery”, so tying knots in it can be a challenge; you need to be sure to use only appropriate “fishing knots”.  It is not very useful as thread.  Therefore, I tend NOT to have a lot of mono-filament in a survival fishing kit.  However, I might have a bit to make leaders out of in case the fish are really wary.  As such, the choice would be the most “invisible” line available.  I would try to have it wound on as big a diameter spool as practical, or other non-traditional storage method to minimize any “memory” problems.

Braided line is pretty much the complete opposite.  It is slightly fuzzy, and often rather dark in color rather than translucent, so can be more frightening to the fish.  It does not have a problem with memory and will take normal knots (although many of these lines lose significant strength when knotted, so use “fishing knots” when using it for fishing or other uses where the strength is critical).  It can be used as a superior thread for emergency repairs, and has a favorable strength/diameter relationship.  It is my fish line of choice.  I go for the “high-tech” versions; my favorite is Tuf-Line XP, in green.

The other choice is the strength the line is rated at.  Very often “survival kits” will have 10 or 15 pound test line or even occasionally 8 pound.  This strikes me as a questionable decision, since although there are occasions where that size line would be “perfect”, we are talking about survival here, and if the line breaks (due to getting it caught on something or hooking a bigger fish), you are likely to lose a significant portion of your fishing equipment.  You don’t have a large tackle box with lots of replacement available.  I prefer 25 or 30 pound line as the primary line for my kits; I might have some 50 pound or heavier if I was going near someplace with large or vigorous fish.  One thing to keep in mind, is that whatever line you have has to fit through the eye of your hooks.  If my line will not fit the eye of any of the smaller hooks, I would include a bit of an appropriate smaller line, since the smallest hooks would be weaker than my primary line anyway.

Update:  How to carry your thread/fishing line?  Well, I just put 60 to 70 feet of my favorite fishing line onto a sewing machine bobbin.  In about a minute, using the sewing machine’s bobbin loader, although I had to hold the wide, flat reel of fishing line on a pencil because it was too wide to mount on the sewing machine.  This technique would have been even more effective for actual thread.  Another option is to take a tongue depressor or wide Popsicle stick (like from a fancy ice cream bar) cut to length.  Make a notch in each end, and wrap.  This works well for fishing line although wrapping it by hand is tedious; it probably would be even more so for thread.  Finally, http://www.m4040.com has pre-made spools of fishing line in 15 pound (100′) and 25 pound (50′) sizes in case you prefer to let someone else do the work.

Note that a good fish line is bigger than most thread, so when stocking your “sewing kit”, make sure the needles have an eye big enough to accept the fish line.

We talk about the breaking strength of the line, but don’t mention the strength of the hooks.  Frankly, I want the hook to be weaker than the line or any other component of my tackle.  Hooks are small and cheap and usually I can have enough that there are “extras”, so a couple getting lost or bent should not be a catastrophe.  Whereas the line breaking could potentially loose the hook, swivel, sinker and float, which would be rather more of a problem.  Since hook strength is not readily available, I design the rest of my tackle to be reasonably robust, and if the hook turns out to be the weak point, fine, and if it is not, well the rest of the system is not too weak for survival purposes.

Although the hook and line are the critical elements, there are a couple of other items which can enhance your ability to fish effectively.

The next most important item would be some weights to get the hook down to the target depth.  The most compact and easy to use choice is usually “split shot”.  Unfortunately, there is no standard in split shot size or even a constant rating system from country to country.  I will refer to the sizes offered by Water Gremlin from the USA.  I’ll also give the approximate weight in grams to allow conversion to another company’s offerings.  I like water Gremlin because they tend to have a good selection of sizes, and offer ones which are easily removable, enhancing the ability to reuse them.  The  first, and smallest practical choice, seems to be size “BB” (about .5 grams).  The next size up, #3/0 (about 1 gram) is useful, and I include some whenever practical.  The next size up, #7 (a bit under 2 grams) is also of interest; I include a few if there if I can.  Bigger than that is questionable in any but the biggest survival fishing kits.

The next item to consider might be a float or two.  This is sort of an “early warning system” that a fish is investigating your hook.  They are pretty useful, but many are “too big” for a survival kit, being mostly air.  I know there are compact ones out there, as I’ve seen them in commercial kits, but I’ve not yet found a reliable source for them by themselves.  It might be a decent alternative to make your own from things around the home, or even the survival site.  Pretty much anything which floats well can serve as or be made into a float.  I’ve thought about seeing how a  small balloon would work.

Having your fishing line twist during use can be a problem, and the solution is to have some swivels  so you can insert one into each set of tackle.  Of course, there are several sizes available; go for one which matches the strength of the other components.  Although, finding out the strength of any potential swivel may be a problem since it is not always stated.  Look for packages which list the strength, or web sites which list it.  Sampo brand seems to list the strength, and some of the bigger house brands (Cabelas.com, PSFishing.com, BassPro.com, for instance) do as well.

Most all swivels have one end which is a loop to which you tie your line; the other end can also be a loop which the leader is tied to, or there are ‘clip’ versions which just snap onto the hook or leader.  The latter version makes it easier to swap parts to adjust to changing conditions, but generally reduces the strength and increases the size.  If you can get the strength you want in a size you can live with, this is the way to go.  Otherwise, see if you  can get a non-clip version which will meet your size and strength requirements.

This is pretty much a good basis for compact survival fishing tackle.  However, the key to successful fishing often comes down to the bait, and the best condition is when you can scrounge fresh bait (worms, grubs, insects, animal or fish offal) at the site.  Carrying bait in your kit is a bit of problem, since most bait does not store well or compactly.  One possible exception available in some commercial kits are “salmon eggs”.  Another possibility is artificial lures.  A “fly” or two is often a good addition to a survival fishing kit.  Bigger kits can include more complex artificial lures with names like “jig”, “spoon”, “spinner”, “plug” and so on.  There are “millions” of them out there.  I have no idea which are effective and which are gimmicks, and my current location (the desert) is not conducive to testing.  And I remember back when I did live near fishing spots that none of the lures I tried seemed to work particularly well.  Of course, I only bought bargain basement stuff back then, plus, many lures are designed for a particular fish under certain conditions, so I probably was using the wrong one at the wrong time.  I’m pretty good at picking good flys, and as for any other artificial lure, I stick with what comes in commercial kits.

You can build your fishing kit from scratch, and for a basic kit (hooks, lines, sinkers and swivels, possibly a few flys), this is generally the best methodology.  If you want floats and/or advanced artificial lures, it might work better to start with a commercial kit which has the advanced items you want, and adjust the basic items to your taste.  As an example of a commercial kit which can be updated to be top notch, check out the Best Glide Standard Survival Fishing Kit.  It includes:

 

Manual Fishing Tips and Instructions
Sticker (2) Survival Tin Sticker
Jig (1) 2″ Swirl Tail Grub
Jig (1) Tiny Shad
Jig (1) 1 1/2″ Tube Jig
Spoon (1) 1/4  oz.
   Bait (8) Salmon Eggs
Fly (1) Size 8
Fly (1) Size 10 1/8
   Desiccant (1) Moisture Absorbing Packet
Razor (1) Folding Razor Knife
Hooks (2) Treble
Hooks (3) #4
Hooks (3) #6
Hooks (3) #8
Leaders (4) Wire Wound Leaders
Split Shot (4) BB
Split Shot (4) 3/0
Bobber (1) ¾”
Line (50 Ft) 12LB
Line (25 Ft) 30LB
   Ready Line (Line, Bobber, Sinker, Hook)

 

No swivels are listed, but they are built into the leaders.  All the line is mono-filament; I’d discard the 30lb and replace it with at least 50 feet of my favorite TufLineXP.  The 12 lb line needs to be evaluated to see how “invisible” it is; if not the best, I’d replace it with 25 feet of a more invisible line of perhaps 15 pound.  I’d add a few more #4 and #8 hooks, a few smaller hooks and a few circle hooks.  More split shot and swivels.  Another bobber or two might be useful.

Note that the kit includes “treble” hooks.  This is 3 standard hooks with the shafts connected, and the tips spread equidistant around the circle.  I forgot to address these in the article on hooks; they can be much more effective than a single hook, but they don’t “pack” particularly well, so often are left out of survival kits.   They are great if you can fit a few in.

treblehook

In a bigger survival kit, you may want to consider some “automatic” fishing devices.  These are spring loaded; you set them up and if a fish nibbles, the spring releases and sets the hook (obviously, not for use with circle hooks).  The ones I carry are the “Yo-Yo Reels”.  The other option is the “Speedhook” which is simpler to use and seems a bit more effective, but might be more trouble to pack.  Note that both of these have application for small animal snares as well as fishing.

 

speedhook   yoyoreel

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