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Survival Fishing: How a Gill Net Could Save Your Life

Survival Fishing: How a Gill Net Could Save Your Life

If you’ve ever seen a survival TV show, you probably have been introduced to gill nets. This simple yet effective survival tool is one of the make-or-break pieces of gear for show contestants, as without food you really won’t last long in the wilderness. Using a small gauge gill net, survivalists can sustain on a fish or two practically for every meal. But how do gill nets work? And if they’re so effective, why do people use fishing poles?

Today, we’re sharing how packing this item in your hiking or overnight backpack could save your day and possibly your life. We’ll also let you know when and where you can use one, otherwise, you may face legal consequences.

Let’s get to it!

Survival Gill Net Fishing -B.O.B. Trapping Gear-

What Is a Survival Gill Net?

A survival gill net, or small gauge gill net, is a tool people use in wilderness and survival scenarios. Indigenous people have used them for centuries to capture food. They’re incredibly effective for catching fish and other aquatic creatures. Even if you don’t regularly eat fish, you’ll likely change your mind if your life depends on it. As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The use of gill nets is very controversial and highly regulated in many parts of the country. This is primarily because they pose a severe risk to various aquatic species, not just fish. Some places ban their use, and others require the netting to be a specific size.

Check the rules and regulations where you’ll be fishing before using them. If not, you could end up like these individuals in Florida. They were each facing years of imprisonment and thousands of dollars in fines. 

If law enforcement catches you in possession of a gill net while fishing, it can land you in serious trouble. On the other hand, if you’re using it for survival purposes, it’s a different story. Law enforcement and wildlife agencies may overlook their use in these situations. However, you’ll need to prove it was for survival and not recreation.

Pro Tip: Make sure you know the 5 C’s of Survival before you head out into the wilderness.

Fresh fish in a fishing nets.

How Does a Survival Gill Net Work?

A gill net typically works using a rectangular piece of netting with floats attached to the top and weights to the bottom. The floats keep the netting open so fish can swim into it. You can place the survival gill net and use the time to create a shelter or gather other essentials. When you return, you’ll have a haul of fish for your next meal.

Small survival gill nets typically weigh less than a pound, depending on their size and construction. For example, this survival net by Best Glide weighs .7 pounds.

Best Glide ASE Adventurer Survival Gill Net
  • Designed for Survival Applications and is an excellent addition...
  • Constructed of a stronger monofilament line with a 1.5 inch...
  • Constructed of 24 feet of rope designed to expand to 12 ft length...

7 Ways a Gill Net Could Save Your Life

While catching food seems like an important function, a gill net can serve several other important survival functions. Let’s look at ways this item could save your life. Each is a potential reason to add it to your survival kit.

1. Fishing

The typical use for a small gauge gill net is fishing. Depending on the size of the net, dropping it into a body of water can net a significant amount of fish. This can allow you to gather food and efficiently use your time. You don’t have to babysit the net; you can complete other essential survival tasks instead. This could be building a shelter, starting a fire, or gathering resources.

In addition to being efficient, it allows you to conserve your energy. Fishing and hunting can be exhausting and yield minimal results. With the gill net doing all the work, you can rest and save as much energy as possible. In survival situations, you never know when you’ll need it.

2. Bird Trap

While a small gauge gill net can capture aquatic species, it can also help you score birds. Unfortunately, you’re not likely going to catch a chicken or turkey. However, they’re not the only edible birds. Birds can usually be an excellent source of protein and other essential nutrients you need to survive.

You could easily hang the netting between tree limbs or branches. Because the mesh is very thin, birds will likely have trouble seeing it as they fly. They’ll land in the material and be unable to free themselves. While it’s unfortunate for them, the catch could be your next snack or meal.

Gill net by the water
Keep in mind, gill nets are not legal to use in many states unless it is for a purely survival situation.

3. Small Game Trap

Not only can a gill net help you catch fish and birds, but it can also catch various small game. You can capture squirrels, rabbits, and wildlife when you set up your survival gill net on land. Like birds and fish, they’re high in protein and essential nutrients. These can be a very reliable way to survive extended periods in the wilderness.

Consider where you place your gill net to increase your chances of capturing wildlife. It’s even better if you can find trails or water sources that they frequent. If you have leftover scraps from fish, you can use them as bait to help you capture larger animals looking for a snack.

4. Shelter

An essential need for surviving in the wilderness is shelter. Luckily, it’s possible to use a gill net to help you build your shelter. However, if you use it for your shelter, it will be unavailable if you need to capture food. Before using this method, ensure you have a reliable food source.

Suspend the netting between two trees and spread it out. You can then use the netting as a base layer or structure for draping foliage, leaves, and natural materials to create a roof. The size of your net will determine your shelter size. It won’t be fancy, but it can do the job.

5. Signal Device

Some survival gill nets contain reflective materials. This can draw attention to others passing by on land, water, or overhead. They’re most effective when you place them on a hilltop or open clearing. You want to get as much exposure to the sun as possible to increase the chances of your rescuers spotting them.

A gill net is a passive resource. Once you set it up, it’ll do the job as a signaling device until you move it or the sun goes down. This can be useful since you never know when assistance will come.

Fish in gill net
A survival gill net can help save your life in unfortunate situations.

6. Cordage

Gill nets use many strands of netting during construction. By unraveling these, you can use the materials for cordage, which can be incredibly useful when trying to survive. You can use it for various purposes, like building shelters, creating snares, and crafting tools. It can also be handy for first aid.

However, before cutting up and destroying your gill net, ensure you have plenty of food. Once you start hacking, it will likely be less effective for fishing and trapping. Ensure you have plenty of easily accessible food before cutting it into cordage.

7. Collecting Edibles

The longer you’re in the wild, the more desperate you’ll become. You’ll consider eating items that you likely wouldn’t have otherwise. A gill net can help you collect insects, frogs, and even small rodents. It may not be a pleasant thought, but they contain nutrients that can give you energy and strength.

Additionally, you may discover berries, fruits, and nuts. If you do, your gill net can help you get your harvest to your camp. The fewer trips you can make, the more energy you can conserve.

Pro Tip: Want to bring your little ones along on your outdoor adventure? Make sure they know these 10 Easy and Valuable Survival Skills You Can Teach Kids.

Simple Bushcraft Tips & Skills

Could a Survival Gill Net Save Your Life?

While you may hope never to use it, a survival gill net can help save your life. They’re lightweight and relatively easy to use. You’ll be glad you have it if you are in a survival situation. 

Will you be adding a survival gill net to your emergency supply kit? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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