Self-Sufficiency: Freshwater Fishing and Starting a Fish Farm

Freshwater fishing can bring considerable protein into your self-sufficient lifestyle. Learn tips for catching salmon, trout and eels.

| May/June 1976

  • Fishing
    Freshwater fishing is an excellent way to provide your own food.

  • Fishing

Ah, the vicissitudes of time. Four years ago, when there were NO currently relevant small-scale-farming introductory handbooks available, many of us welcomed the publication of Richard Langer's Grow It! with open arms. Now that we're all older and more experienced, however, some folks find it increasingly easy to criticize that breakthrough beginner's guide.

Which brings us to another breakthrough book that is just as important (probably more so) now as Grow It! was two years ago . . . and which may well come up for its share of criticism in another 24 months or so.

Be that as it may, John and Sally Seymour's record of 18 successful years on a shirttail-sized homestead in England is important now and should offer welcome encouragement to today's back-to-the-landers . . . both real and imaginary. I started serializing the book in my No. 25 issue and I'm sure that many readers will want a personal copy for their home libraries. — MOTHER.

Freshwater Fish

The industrial working man's sport of catching fish out of freshwater canals, lakes and streams, weighing them, and throwing them back again, is as puerile as pulling wings off flies, but I suppose it is better than watching hired men playing football, for at least it gets its devotees away from a crowd. The men who do it will solemnly assure you that these fish are not edible anyway, and further that if they throw them back it will keep the stocks of fish up so other anglers will have a chance to catch some. They are wrong on both counts. There is no freshwater fish that lives in England that I know of that is not excellent to eat. And to crop, or harvest, the fully grown fish is good for the stocks, in that it gives the younger ones a chance to live and thrive. It is very good for the health and welfare of a stock of fish in any piece of water to remove the full grown fish that have had a chance to breed once or twice and allow the younger generations some room.

I have eaten most kinds of English freshwater fish, very many kinds of African ones, and in the Burma jungle during the war we used to kill far more fish with our hand grenades than we did the enemy. I have never yet found a freshwater fish that was bad to eat. Some people manage to persuade themselves into thinking that freshwater fish taste "muddy". But in sober fact freshwater fish do not taste "muddy". It is all in the imagination. If there is still anxiety on this score, however, freshwater fish from muddy places can be let to swim in clean water overnight or longer before cooking, as is done in France sometimes with carp.

There are plenty of ways of taking fish far more effectively than by "angling" but most of them are against the laws of this country. As they are not against the laws of every country though it is quite permissible to describe them and—who knows?—maybe the laws of this country might change one day; the laws of Man are not immutable, if those of God or Nature are. We will therefore discuss some methods of taking the better edible freshwater fish, fish by fish.

Catching Salmon

The salmon is the king of freshwater fish and that nobody would try to dispute. He spends most of his adult life at sea and is in far better condition caught at sea if mature and off his homeland, for he is at his prime, clean and full of vigour. The monofilament net with a mesh of 5-1/2 inches has made the taking of salmon at sea practical, and shown that there is a greater stock of salmon at sea than had ever been thought. The salmon comes into fresh water to spawn. In an ideal world, if the true welfare of salmon were really considered, I believe he should be netted at sea and left severely alone while in fresh water, for he is there strictly for breeding. The spawning rivers would, of course, have to be kept clear of obstruction and unpolluted, no doubt by the State, for a major incentive to do so would be lost.

But nevertheless we do catch him and eat him when he has entered the rivers, and the sooner after he has entered the fatter and better he will be. In countries where there is no law against it, netting is the best way of taking fresh-run salmon. The new monofilament nets of man-made fibre are perfect for this. If put across a stream at night (the salmon lay up in the day, move upstream at night) salmon will swim into it and gill themselves. For salmon a net of 5-1/2 inches is used (4-1/2 inches is better for small salmon and sewern, or sea trout), six meshes deep, mist green colour, hung on head rope of 1-1/2 mesh for two (which is a way of saying the net is bunched up on the head rope—not pulled tight). The head rope contains plastic floats just sufficient to keep it up and the foot rope just sufficient small leads to keep it down.

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