Fishing for Survival: Keeping Yourself and Your Children Safe

| Last Updated: March 29, 2021

The waters around us offer an ample supply of fresh food that requires much less energy than other methods of acquiring food. Because of this, fishing in survival situations is an ideal method for bringing fresh protein to the table.

Being around the water does have its hazards. We tend to trivialize those dangers in the present date because of access to hospitals, medicines, and institutions that can quickly come to your aid.

Even with these potential dangers, fishing is a skill that should be taught to your children as quickly as possible.

In survival situations, those services that we often take for granted will not be available or in short supply. And if there is a chance you will have children with you, it is imperative that you put yourself and them in situations that minimize potential dangers and also teach them how to respond to injuries or sicknesses that come with the territory.

In this article, we will take a look at some common hazards that come with having to go to the water for sustenance and how to deal with those hazards and keep yourself and children safe as you teach them a valuable skill.

Handling the Water

Our first hazard is the water itself. Our first tip for handling this hazard is being sure your children are adequate swimmers. Enough so that a simple dip in the water does not turn into a dangerous situation.

When working around river systems, it is especially critical that yourself and children are aware of the river currents. You should always keep to the banks and not try wading unless it is absolutely necessary.

Rivers are notorious for being unpredictable in their current and swiftness which can vary wildly. Not only this, but rocks and bottoms in and around rivers can be extremely slick, and you can easily lose your balance and risk serious injury.

Your children should never wander near areas where rapids or even strong runs are present. Even for an adult, these areas can spell trouble. Kids should stick to the banks as often as possible. It is important to teach them how to maneuver in a river, such as facing the current and side stepping and how to cross in tandem.

There are also dangers around lakes. Undercurrents are always a danger as is deep water. If you have them, life jackets should always be worn, especially for younger children who might not yet be strong swimmers.

The best way for young children to learn how to handle these dangers is to slowly train and build up their knowledge and confidence when near and in the water.

Handling the Terrain

To protect yourself and children, it is important that you pick areas near a body of water that does not have unstable ledges and deep drops onto rocky shorelines when scouting a fishing location. Using areas where the water meets the shore on an even or gently sloping surface not only makes the fishing easier, but it eliminates the potential for falls.

There is a potential danger in cliff fishing. (Source)

If you have to use an area with more steep inclines or drops, it is important to teach the children the dangers of reckless footing around these areas. These areas are especially dangerous when in wet or icy conditions.

Your best bet is to always keep children behind you when near unstable structures. They are curious by nature and should be watched with care.

Poisonous Animals

Bodies of water also tend to harbor poisonous snakes in a lot of areas of the United States. Copperheads and water moccasins are the most prevalent venomous snakes that are often found around bodies of water and understanding their behavior will help you avoid them.

It has increasingly been shown that the common snake bite kits that are available are not effective at removing the venom from a bite and usually leads to infections which can further complicate matters. The bottom line is that being aware of your surroundings and avoiding encounters with these animals is a much better strategy than trying to extract venom on your own.

When the sun is out, these snakes love to sit and sun on the large and warm boulders and rocks that line a lock of embankments and should always be properly scouted before venturing out on to them to fish.

A copperhead snakes chilling in a rock. (Source)

Another area to keep an eye on is low hanging branches over the water. Venomous snakes such as a water moccasin tend to hang out over these areas and will drop out of the tree when disturbed.

When fishing, fish on stringers are also an attractant for venomous snakes. Just keep an eye out and have a large stick or even a small rimfire to dispatch or deter the snakes. Better yet, have a bucket or some other kind of mechanism where you can store the fish after you catch them rather than letting them hang out in the water.

In the end keeping an eye out for these reptiles and avoiding or dispatching quickly can circumvent a potential snakebite. Children should be educated on how to identify a poisonous snake and also how to scout or avoid areas that just have a snakey look to them.

Preparing Your Catch

I know, I know, humans eat raw fish all the time. In fact, it’s a billion dollar food industry and available in just about every town in the U.S. The fish you are going to be pulling out of the lakes, ponds, or rivers are not sushi. Raw fish consumed at a restaurant is prepared to be eaten raw.

The bottom line is that consuming raw or undercooked fish can lead to bacterial infections or parasitic infections. It might be a short-lived or persistent disease, and it might be nothing serious or life threatening.

Children’s immune systems, especially below the age of ten are not as robust as adults, and they are even more susceptible to these potential agents. Because of this, it is important to clean fish properly as well as cook them to proper temperatures to kill potential pathogens. The proper internal temperature for cooked fish should be right around 145°F.

If you are not eating the fish on the spot, they should still be cleaned and stored properly and as quickly as possible. Freezing is obviously the best method, but salting, drying, or smoking are also reasonable methods to prevent bacteria from growing on and spoiling your catch or eventually causing sickness if consumed.

We just don’t have room to cover these techniques of cleaning and preserving your catch in this article, but it should give you a good jumping off point to learn these valuable techniques and then be able to pass on these skills to your children.

Sickness in survival situations can turn a daunting situation into a deadly one. While fish can provide a near limitless resource of fresh food, you must take steps to protect yourself and your children from catastrophe.

Winter Fishing and Hypothermia

When outdoors, one of the most dangerous situations is not animals or humans, but hypothermia where it kills hundreds each year. In survival situations, you might not have the luxury of being able to stay indoors with stores of food and will have to face the elements.

You and your children should be well versed in the signs of hypothermia as well as the treatment for it. In fact, if you do fall in water during winter months, it’s better to act immediately whether than wait around to see if symptoms do occur.

During hypothermia, your core body temperature drops below 95°F. At this temperature, your bodily functions cannot perform correctly and will lead to extreme physical and mental impairment and potentially death.

Without proper medical services, it is critical that you address the issue as quickly as possible. The fish will still be there later.

If you or your child is submerged, do not attempt to address the issue at that moment, if you can be to your camp or shelter out of the elements quickly. Once in a warm environment that is blocked from the wind, remove all wet clothing, dry off, and layer with dry clothing and blankets. Towels or other material soaked in hot water can be applied, but it is critical to remove shortly and re-dry the body if this is used. It's also a good idea to consume warmed water or other broth in small increments to help raise the internal body temperature.

If done quickly, the body can passively heat back up again. If there is no way you are going to be able to get back to your camp or you are talking about extreme temperatures, you need to build a shelter and wind block, build a fire and use your body heat to warm as soon as possible.


In survival situations, fishing offers tremendous opportunities for fresh and consistent food that doesn't require much energy.

Of course, there are dangers, especially when you have your children with you. Regardless of the dangers, fishing for food is a skill they need to learn and need to learn it quickly. They also need to learn about the potential dangers that can be encountered when fishing and how to deal with them.

We hope this article has provided a brief outline of these hazards and will serve as a jumping off point for more research and preparation. In survival situations, our children are a valuable resource and prepared to have them in these situations and teach them how to survive is paramount.

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