The Art of Gill Netting & Survival Fishing

Gill netting can be a life saving skill for any survival situation and if often overlooked in the arsenal of tools when prepping. Gill nets are the food providing go to tool for any elite survivalist so as we get into the topic, I want to do so by sharing a story with you about my survival fishing experience. When I was a young boy the topic of survival fascinated me in every way. Reading all the survival books I could get my hands on, I learned a lot but I also soon learned a valuable lesson. Not all authors actually practice what they write. I believe in a simple principle and that being “show me that it works”. This is especially important when you read today’s articles on survival fishing. If they don’t practice what they preach,then they are just quoting a google search. I now have over 40 years of survival skills in my arsenal and I practice what I preach.

For example one of my first survival trips as a young teen was to practice survival fishing but none of those tips mentioned the fishing gill net. I spent hours whittling fish hooks just like they demonstrated in the fancy survival book I had read. I dug up worms and found some discarded fishing line and then tried my luck The first lesson I learned was that my hook was too large to catch the bluegill that were just stealing my worms. After an hour or so of total frustration a largemouth bass finally came by. Perhaps he was 10 inches long and he sucked in the worm and I set the hook. Guess what happened then? The wood snapped breaking off and my dinner swarm off into the blue waters while laughing at me. I was left with a piece of straight wood with no fish.

Now from the above experience I can now say that had I known then what I know now and if I wanted to be a hardcore primitive survival run in the woods like naked and afraid kind of guy then I would have used a bone fish hook. (that was a really long sentence). Come to think about it, I would have used an even better tool known as the Peruvian Survival Gill Net but If you insist on going primitive then making bone fishing hooks is really quite simple. More on that topic in the linked article.

First just for the sake of it, lets go over something. What is a gill net? A Gill net is a wall of netting that is made of monofilament or multifilament lines of varying diameter and in varying mesh sizes. It is woven into a mesh so that as the fish swims into it and realizes they can not pass through, they are stuck and can not back out as their gills have now been caught in the nets mesh lines. The mesh being of varying sizes such as 1×1 inch, 2×2, 3×3 etc allows for catching different size fish. There are set gill nets which are affixed to poles or anchor points in the bottom of the pond or on the banks. Drift gill nets are affixed to floats and kept at the proper depth. Span sizes vary in length according to the needs. So now that you know a little more about them let’s move on with our story.

The only method that I found to really work with wooden fishing hooks was to sharpen both ends and tie it in the middle. That trick didn’t always work unless the fish fully swallowed it.  I Lost more than one fish trying this method out and it was not very impressive at all. I soon concluded that the wooden fish hook idea was terrible. Sure if they are all you have then you have no choice but to give it a shot but overall, terrible.

Buckshot's Emergency Freshwater Fishing Kit

Talking to friend he asked  “why are you trying to starve yourself to death?. Stop playing around and bring real fish hooks with you.”  Oh a common sense approach I thought to myself so my Next step was to make up a survival fishing kit that fits in a pill bottle. We still carry those to this day. The container is a bit larger now but it is stuffed with useful items. A survival fishing kit about half the size of a soda can.

On the next trip out a friend joined me and we had all these big plans of eating like kings. We put 10 lines out, all baited with worms, grasshoppers, cricket, and one crayfish. Just before dark we caught two fish so at least we had something to eat that evening. We reset the lines and left them  soak overnight thinking that surely by the morning we would have at least 5 maybe 6 fish.

The next morning at the crack of dawn,  two half starved kids are checking fishing lines. “Stolen bait.” I said pulling another empty line out with a frustrated look. We only caught one fish which was  a largemouth bass, caught on the crayfish but It was better than nothing.

Our next step was to try spear fishing. Ok here is some lessons to be learned on using fish spears. Clear water is a must so that you can see the fish. If you’re in a stream, you walk up stream in the water very slowly. Why upstream? So the mud you kick up as you walk drifts away from you giving you clear water ahead. Using a spear is not as easy as it looks, It takes tons of practice. On larger Fish you must let go of the spear handle once the fish has been speared. If you try to haul them in, sometimes as they are fighting, they will get off and escape, but if you let them run off the energy then you can easily haul them in. Of course on large rivers and lakes you need a line tied to the spear handle.  I would tie it off to my belt loop. Carrying the loop line in my left hand spear in my right. Otherwise you will be doing some swimming.

This survival fishing was turning into a lot of work. Recently in Peru I was again taught a valuable survival lesson. The water is too dark to spear fish. Gill nets are legal to use, so I bought a monofilament clear gill net. The local native we had become friends with took one look at the net and shook his head. “No good here, this for main river” he said. “You want green net,  more natural, you catch more fish.” Of course me being an American, I ignore his advise and continued.

Yes we caught fish in it but not very many fish. We have something like a pond that fills in when the river is high for about 6 months a year. It has a darker brackish water with lots of vegetation in it. After the realization that I was wrong, I swallow my pride and bought a green survival gill net as he suggested. This was a multifilament gill net, not a monofilament gill net. There are big differences I will explain as we move along here.  Ok, the point being, I should have listened to the man whose very survival depends on choosing the right gill net. We caught twice as many fish in the green multifilament gill net as the clear monofilament gill net.

Of course I had to ask him why this worked so much better? He smiled and talked to me like he was explaining to a child to which I took no offense as I was humbled in the grace of his knowledge. “What color is the weeds growing in the pond?” he asked. I understood immediately why this worked so much better. Something so obvious that even a child should know it. “Green vegetation! the fish doesn’t see a green gill net as a threat, in fact often they can hardly see it at all.” The fish were in the net before they even knew they were in trouble.

Survival Gill Net - Gill Netting

Now I said I would  explain the difference between the monofilament gill net and the multifilament gill net. Aside from the natural color, even if you use a green monofilament net, they will give off a sort of shine when light hits them. They are made of a plastic type nylon material. This alerts the fish that something is wrong. Now if you look at a multifilament gill net, it has a different material, nearly like a nylon thread, more natural in appearance and does not reflect sunlight. In green or murky water it looks just like floating vegetation. This fish feel at ease when they encounter the net and they simply attempt to swim through it and of course, this means dinner for you.

Fishing With Gill Nets

When you’re hundreds of miles away from the nearest town in the Amazon rainforests of Peru you learn valuable lessons. You listen to the experts on their survival fishing tips because your very life may depend on it. This lesson motivated us to bring the handmade Peruvian Gill Net to America and as far as we know, we are the only ones to carry the nets used by the tribes of Peru deep in the jungle. Sure a survival gill net can be found anywhere but when you have one the tribes depend on for their own survival, you have something worth keeping in your bug out bag. Want to up your game when it comes to survival fishing? If so then Grab yourself a Peruvian Survival Gill Net.

~Author,  Bruce “Buckshot” Hemming~

Editors Comments
I have lived the life of the tribes in the remote Amazon Jungle, the fish you see here were caught using the Peruvian Survival Gill Net.  The proof is as they say in the pudding? Well here the truth is in the fish!