The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild - Dave Canterbury (2016)

Part III. Living Off the Land

Chapter 15. Catching Fish and Frogs

“Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.”

—Herbert Hoover

Fish, frogs, and crayfish are probably the easiest meat sources of high quality to secure in the wild from most areas. Rod and reel are often carried by campers. I would also suggest a frog gig if you plan to secure camp meat even when the fish may not be biting.

Fishing Equipment

Equipment for fishing can be as simple as a hand line or as complicated as the most expensive and modern rod/reel combo. However, there are some real nice packages for packable rods and reels that can be found fairly inexpensively. A light-action rod will work for most around-the-camp fishing from shore and something of less than 6' will do fine.

Tests of line should probably range from 4–6 pounds so that they are durable yet strong in case you are fishing for bluegill and happen to hook a lurking bass in the shallows.

Bushcraft Tip

To make a bottle trap to catch bait, cut off the shoulders and neck of a plastic bottle (any size) and invert it so that the cut ends come together, creating a funnel. You can sew the pieces together with fishing line or tape the edges together with duct tape if you’re worried they’ll come apart. Weight the bottle with a few stones, add some bait (such as insects), and place it in shallow water. Secure it into position with more fishing line. Once fish swim in, they won’t be able to swim out again and you can use them as bait for larger, more desirable fish.

For tackle, keep it simple. Live bait can often be found near shore and captured with a dip net or bottle trap, so hooks and weights (sinkers) are about all you need with a couple of floats or strike indicators.

In all the fishing I have done around the eastern woodland areas the most productive artificial bait I have found is a simple inline spinner such as a Mepps or Rooster Tail. They are attractive to almost all species of pan and game fish and they are an easy lure to use. Just cast and reel, varying the speed and the depth till you find the fish.

Choose a few standard colors, like yellow, white, and chartreuse green, in about 1⁄8 ounce, plus something that looks very natural as well like a brown or dark red. This should serve you well.

Frog and Fish Kit

A simple kit made from any cylindrical object, be it a soda can or PVC tube, will increase your odds greatly and add a new dimension to your fun in the outdoors. This kit is created using an 8" piece of 3⁄4" PVC with an end plug glued into one side and a removable cap at the other. All components can be stored inside the tube when not in use.

In the cap, drill a hole large enough to secure a wrist loop of paracord. On the outside, I recommend about 50 yards of 50-pound spider wire. This fishing line is small enough in diameter to secure small fish but also heavy enough for the occasional big boy you may hook.

I recommend the following: 5 #6 hooks and 5 #8 hooks, several split shot, and a couple of small bobbers. I also carry about 12" of red yarn; frogs can’t resist this wrapped around a hook and dangled in front of them. Remember that big hooks catch big fish but small

hooks catch a lot of fish!

With this kit, you gain a lot of confidence very quickly.

Preparing Frogs and Fish

Frogs are fairly simple to prepare. We will only consume the back legs in most cases and these can easily be cut free at the uppermost joint from the carcass. Once the legs are removed, the skin is easily peeled off and the legs are ready for cooking.

Breaded Frog Skewers

This is one of my favorite ways to fix frog—and it’s quick and easy.

4–5 frogs, fresh caught

1 box hush puppy mix (about 10 ounces), prepared according to package directions

Hot sauce, to taste

1.    Cut frogs at the hind quarters and roll in hush puppy mix. Skewer with a green stick and cook over medium coals till golden brown, about 10 minutes.

2.    Shake a bit of Louisiana or Cholula Hot sauce on the frog legs as you eat, discarding the bones.

Filleting or prepping fish can be done in several ways. The simplest is to cut the fish from vent through the gills and remove everything inside to include the gills. The fish can then be cooked or further prepared by either beheading or filleting or both.

To fillet the fish is to remove the most usable meat and discard the rest. Make a cut the width of the fish just on the outside of the gill plate on both sides of the fish. Then take the tip of a sharp knife and working on either side of the backbone begin to cut along the top of the ribs. Once this meat is freed it will still be connected at the tail and you can flip the entire slab over and use a long flexible blade to cut between the meat and the skin so that you are left with only a slab of fresh fish with no bones or skin. This is called the fillet. See Figure 15.1.

9781440598524 How to Clean Fis

Figure 15.1 How to clean fish

Lots of fish are easily cooked whole after removing the gills and cuts, and the meat can then be picked from the carcass with a fork to avoid the bones. Fish cooked in foil over coals will separate very well from the skin, and this locks in all of the flavor as well.

Tips and Tricks

·        The thing with many fishing lures is they seem to catch a lot more people than they do fish. Limit yourself to just a few types that will cover multiple water depths and retrieve speeds, and have confidence you will catch fish. To me, confidence is more important than any lure you use.

·        Use your ears. You can often hear frogs before you see them.

·        Keep frogs and fish alive so you don’t have to immediately process them. A 5-gallon bucket with a lid, filled with water, will hold them until you can get to them. Cut air holes in the lid.

·        Patience and persistence are key in both frogging and fishing. If you’re not successful on a first pass, you might be successful on a second.

·        Make sure before setting out that you check local laws and regulations as well as acquire any necessary licenses or permissions.