What could be better on a warm spring day than to spend some quality time fishing for your dinner? The occasional flash of a passing Dragonfly, and the gentle sound of the breeze rustling through last seasons Cattails, all serve to remind us of the old saying that a bad days fishing is always better than a good days work.
The heart races as you feel that first pull on the hook, the adrenalin rises as the fish breaks the surface of the water, its scales shimmering in the sunlight. The long fight as you play the fish and take in the line, and finally the sense of satisfaction tinged with a hint of sadness as you place the lifeless fish into your game bag.
There are many methods that can be used to catch a fish in a survival situation, and the traditional rod and line method is quite possibly the least certain to put food on the table. Throughout history poachers and hunter gatherers have used a variety of methods to catch fish, everything from tickling Trout to using Dynamite have been used to good effect. It is probably worth mentioning that poaching is illegal in the UK, and Dynamite fishing is frowned upon almost everywhere. However; learning how to catch fish using unconventional methods could be a lifesaver in a survival situation.
Once you have caught your fish you will need to kill it as humanely and swiftly as possible. This can be achieved by giving it a sharp blow just behind the head using a priest, (A priest is a stout stick used to administer the last rights). Once the fish is no longer moving it should be gutted by holding the fish in your left hand (If you are right handed) with the fishes belly facing up and its head away from you. Using the tip of a sharp knife carefully cut up the body from the anus to a point between the pectoral fins. Using two fingers scoop the entrails out of the body cavity and pull firmly. This will remove all the guts which should be disposed of well away from your campsite, because they will start to stink very quickly and may attract vermin. I prefer to burn them in the fire when possible.
Select and cut a straight length of green (live) Hazel or other non toxic wood such as Willow, this should be approximately the thickness of your middle finger. Cut it to a length of 1 metre and use a knife to remove the bark from the thinnest end for a distance of 30 cm. Sharpen both ends of the stick. Next select two 20 cm long, 5mm thick sections of Hazel. Remove the bark from both as illustrated, these will be the skewers that prevent the fish from turning on the spit.
Next, pressing onto a log or other firm surface and using the tip of a knife split the thickest piece of hazel down the centre, but not all the way to the end of the shaft. Twisting slightly will open up the cut. If you do accidentally split the wood all the way to the end don’t worry, this can be tied up using string or a piece of bark later. Ensure that the skewers will fit by inserting them into the spit, they should be firm but not too difficult to insert. If the skewers are difficult to insert open the split up slightly using the tip of a knife.
Here comes the yucky bit! Place the spit into the body cavity of the fish and push it out through the mouth of the fish, a real test for the squeamish. Next, line up the split with the sides of the fish and insert the first skewer through the side of the fish, it then goes through the split and out through the other side of the fish. Try to get it through the meatiest parts of the body or it may start to rip as the fish cooks. Insert the second skewer further towards the tail of the fish. With both skewers in place the fish should be well secured to the spit. You can also tie the tail to the spit using strips of bark or string.
Cook the fish over the embers of a fire, and keep turning it to prevent burning. By inserting the thick end of the spit into the ground you don’t have to hold it constantly. Once the fish is cooked to your liking remove the skewers and eat it…
Another good idea is to stuff the inside of the fish with herbs such as Ramsons (wild Garlic) or fennel. Use a piece of natural string or bark to secure it.
Cooking Fish or Meat on a stick is one of the simplest and most pleasant ways of cooking in the outdoors. Using this method is more secure than simply sticking a stick through the fish and hoping for the best. It can also be used for cooking Rabbits and other small game animals.
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