One of the best strategies for any survival scenario is to use traps instead of hunting or fishing. Setting a fish trap will free yourself up for other tasks while still having the possibility of bringing in a big meal.

For thousands of years, primitive societies used funnel traps to catch fish. They could be made in a few hours out of any kinds of plants nearby, the best being the plants that make long sturdy strips of cordage.

Funnel traps were made of two funnels, the first being larger and the main body of the trap. The small end of the funnel would be closed, and the other, smaller funnel would be nested inside the first.

The fish swim into the first funnel, looking for the bait inside. When they turn around, they can’t figure out how to get out through the smaller opening.

Tools & Materials

  • Cordage
  • 7 to 11 long branches
  • 7 to 11 shorter branches
  • Knife or sheers
  • Bait
  • One rock
  • Small strip of fabric

Preparation for DIY Fish Trap

  1. In America, your best bet for cordage is to gather up strips of birch bark, which can be peeled off the tree in warm weather. Another option might be willow leaves and their flexible young branches.
  2. Besides the cordage, you’ll also need to gather a handful of stiff branches – some that are longer than your lower leg and others about half, or even a third, of that size. You’ll be surprised by how long this trap has to be to accommodate a reasonably sized fish.

Making Your DIY Fish Trap

  1. First, you have to make the first funnel. Lay out an odd number of the longest branches (if you use an even number, the weaving won’t work). Tie them together at one end with the cordage. That will be the closed end of the funnel.
  2. Make a hoop out of the flexible branches that is roughly the size of the open end of the funnel. Lash it onto the loose end of the branches to keep the funnel’s shape while you weave.
  3. Now, you have to use the cordage to weave this skeleton into a basket. You start from the closed end and weave the cordage over, under, and then over the stiff branches. You don’t usually need to tie off the cord, but it can help to get you started in the first few weaves.
  4. When you add on the next piece of cord for weaving, make sure it overlaps the last one by a stick or more. As you move up the basket, you can use progressively thicker and tougher materials.
  5. Now, you have to make the smaller funnel. You can use the same process to make the skeleton as you did with the first, creating two hoops to hold the sticks in place. Just make sure one hoop is just barely smaller than the wide opening on the big funnel, and that the other hoop is significantly smaller in order to get that funnel shape.
  6. Weave the smaller funnel the same way you did the larger one. When both are done, cut any sticks that were too long.
  7. Place the smaller funnel in the larger funnel, tying both of the wider ends together with more cordage.
  8. Place the bait inside the scrap of fabric and form it into a ball. Tie the bait ball inside the trap so it remains in place, no matter how the trap rolls. Put the rock into the trap last – it will hold the trap down and keep it from floating away.

What types of bait can you use? You can find lots of bait near a river bed by digging for worms and other crawlies or by catching crabs, flies, caterpillars, snails, or anything that moves. If the trap is empty after a few hours, try a new kind of bait. After you’ve gotten your first fish, using its guts or a chunk of its meat will often get you great results and bigger fish.

You also need to know where to place the trap. A shallow but moving part of the river bed is a good spot because you can easily retrieve it. The edge of a lake is okay but harder to keep track of.

If it is very hot out, the fish will be in deeper water trying to keep cool. In that case, you can submerge the trap deeper, but try to attach something that will float next to it, so you can keep an eye on where it is.

Image courtesy of  evadeb / Shutterstock