One of the 5 basic needs in survival is food. Without it, we eventually die: there is no way around this one. And in preparing for possible emergencies most of us have a store of food we can live off of for a limited time. Some folks even have edible gardens and even a sustainable sources of protein in the form of rabbits or chickens. That would be the ultimate in preparedness, but not all of us have the room to grow enough food to be self sufficient. Now there are some things we can do with limited space, such as container gardening and sprouting, but there is another way which I had overlooked until recently: foraging for food.
You’ve heard this before: “when there’s a disaster, I’m going to head to the mountains and live off the land.” Sounds good, right? It is if you know what you are doing, but for the average person, there are many flaws in this way of thinking. First off, you have to possess a huge set of survival / homesteading skills to be able to pull off a plan like that. Piggy backing your skill set is a large amount of resources you will have to have before setting off for the hills. Also, if you’re like me, you don’t live close enough to a mountain range to make it reasonable to make “heading for the hill’s” your primary plan. And you may not need to.
Note: the locations have been left out because it is not important. The purpose of this article is to report what I find out about my area and to hopefully encourage you to do the same.
Foraging for Food
I live in Southern California, not an ideal spot for hunting or gathering edibles. But if the stuff does hit the fan and I find myself without food, I better know where (if at all) I can find food. So I decided to give it a try now, while food is still readily available instead of waiting until I’m starving and it’s too late.
In the section below, I will report what I find out about my local area as I find them, so please check back periodically for updates.
September 14, 2012 – just enough time to squeeze in one last trip
As mentioned in the previous update, my work schedule is packed for the rest of the month so fishing another weekend seemed out of the question. Well, on Friday of last week, I found alittle block of spare time. I was in luck. I packed my gear and made what could be my last fishing adventure for awhile. Again, luck was on my side and I managed to land some nice trout at a local lake.
Since this could be my last trip for awhile, I decided to keep several fish to maintain a healthy supply of trout in the freezer. After all, I am foraging for food.
Overall, this was a great summer, filled with tons of great experiences and discoveries. My goal here was to find where and what types of food I can gather for times when food isn’t readily available. Having spent the summer seeking a food source, I can say that fish (at least for now) can be still one of the easiest ways of adding protein to your emergency diet.
Next up… hunting.
September 01, 2012 - one last day at the lake
Our 16-18Aug trip to the lake was so amazing that we wanted to get there one more time before the end of summer. Our schedules looked pretty busy towards the end of September, so we decided sooner was better than later. Again, we packed our gear and headed out to the lake.
The morning started off a little slow, but around 10am, the most amazing thing happened. I had hooked a decent sized striper and as I was reeling her in, my reel came alive! I mean the thing started screaming like nobody’s business!!! Was the striper that big? An why run all of a sudden? Well folks, it wasn’t the striper. It turned out that on the way up, a largemouth bass decided it wanted the striper more than I did and flat out ate it. When it realized the striper was hooked, the largemouth spit it out, causing my hook to lodged itself right on the upper lip of the largemouth. Unreal! The fight was on and after what felt like an eternity, I had landed my first largemouth bass. And a decent sized one at that. It weighed in at 9lbs 6oz and measured 24″ in length.
Shortly after this photo was taken, my wife and I decided to release this beast. I attempted to revive it for no less than 5 minutes, but unfortunately, this guy was done. Oh well, it was bass fillet for dinner that night. In case anyone is wondering why it’s called a largemouth, I took this photo just before I started cleaning the fish.
August 23, 2012 – sometimes you must relocated for success
Ever have those days when nothing seems to work out? Well, that was my week. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally had a day off. I thought about staying home and catching up on blogging, but I decided I needed a break. I packed my fishing gear once again and headed to the mountains, this time flying solo. My first stop was the lake. A week prior, the fishing was off the hook so I went back, hoping to start the weekend off on a good note. I got there at the break of dawn and almost immediately, I had a small striped bass. Nice, but as fast as they came, they were gone. For the next 3 hours it was dead. Not a single strike. The day started off right, but was quickly spiraling downhill.
In an effort to save the day, I did something I normally won’t do. I jumped back in my truck and headed towards the streams. By the time I’d arrived, it was well into the afternoon and I wasn’t expecting much. I was just so frustrated by the way the week had been going, I needed something to break the pattern. With little hope, I cast my line and literally within seconds, I had a strike! Things started looking good. I put the fish in the cooler and tried my luck again. And again, BAM! Another hit! To make a long story short, this went on for about 30 minutes. I had to call it a day because it was already getting dark, but my day (and thus my week) had been saved. Thank you, ….
August 16 – 18, 2012 – first multi-day fishing trip
This week, we decided to try someplace new and went to a local lake. After fishing streams and rivers, the thought of sitting around a dock and waiting for a fish to bite wasn’t that appealing to me. Alas, my wife really liked the idea of relaxing by a lake so I gave it a try. Boy was I wrong. Folks, the fish were on fire! The bite was fierce and continuous. Luck was definitely on our side.
I had never really fished in a lake and certainly not this one. The guys on the dock informed me that the lake held striped bass as well as crappie, bass, bluegills, etc. Up until this point, I had only heard of striped bass and had never actually seen one (pathetic, I know). Anyway, the nice fellow on the dock told me to use anchovies for bait. Noticing how ill prepared I was, he gave me the rest of his as he departed.
We setup our gear as the man had explained and soon, we were pulling them in. Stripers after stripers. It was amazing. Many of them were too small to keep and were released with minimal contact. However, as we got later into the afternoon, something big hit my line. It felt like a freight train had hooked onto my light weight/fast action pole.
It pulled so hard that at one point, I had about 1/2 of my freshly spooled 4lbs test left on the reel. The fish put up one hell of a fight, but after about ten minutes of battling the beast, it became clear who the victor was.
July 27, 2012 – hooked on trout
In the previous update, I mentioned that my wife showed interest in fishing and we went out for the day. You can read the update below, but in a nutshell, we had a blast. As a result, she’s hooked on fishing and a few days later, she asked to go again! Bonus!
We had a late start, getting to the mountains around noon. We tried fishing the previous spot with negative results. Since we pack light when trout fishing the streams, it’s easy for us to move around. We decided to move upstream and around several curves until we reached an area that had good terrain features. We both dropped our lines and within a few casts, we were on fish!
I didn’t have a fish scale at the time so I didn’t get a chance to weigh it, but by the looks of it, it appeared to be at least a pound. Based on the length of the trout, I decided it was a keeper.
This day wasn’t as exciting as the previous trip, but still we had a great time. You know, originally, the purpose of these trips was to see what foods I can forage, but in doing so I’d found more than just food. I’ve lived in Southern California for nearly my entire life and just now I’m discovering the beauty of the local mountains. As I follow a stream in search of fish, I am forced to explore new areas and therefore see things I had missed from the road. And the real kicker? I found a side of my wife that neither she nor I, couldn’t have imagined existed. From city girl to beginner adventurer: all it took was timing and alittle fish to inspire her sense of adventure and openness to the outdoors.
July 13, 2012 – getting the spouse involved
A few days after my failed attempt at the “local” river, I needed redemption. On a last minute decision, I made plans for a quick trip to the mountains. I made notification to my wife about my intentions and to my surprise, she wanted to go! Really? You see, my wife isn’t the outdoorsy type. She likes hotels over camping, prefers designer bags over technical backpacks, etc. So why all of a sudden fishing? I just had to ask. The answer: “you (me) make it easy.” Simple, yet to the point. Anyway, more on “getting your spouse involved” in a future article. Let’s get back to catching your own food!
It was mid summer and the stream was flowing with fresh snow melt. The water was cold and clear. Perfect trout fishing conditions and the perfect time to break in the new fishing gear.
Since my wife isn’t very knot savvy, I prepped both our gear and in minutes we were ready to fish. Then I told her what I know about locating trout and how to fish for them, the rest is history. We started off together, fishing side by side, but within minutes, I watched as she wandered off looking for a good spot.
Now for the guys with sporty wife, this may not be a big deal, but having a wife that isn’t outdoorsy and watching her explore on her own just made my day. Luckily, the fish were present and biting which helps peak interest. After a couple of hours catching, we started getting hungry. I could have easily kept on fishing, but sometimes it’s better to quit while you’re ahead so I did. I broke down the fishing rods, retrieved the two trout we decided keep for dinner.
Once we got home, I performed the manly task of cleaning the fish. Also, it’s become “tradition” at my house for me to not only clean, but to cook whatever I catch. So out came the olive oil and sea salt. A few minutes on each side and dinner was served.
By the way: did you know that fish innards make an excellent fertilizer? Instead of tossing it in the trash, I buried the fish innards underneath my peach tree.
July 11, 2012 – fishing the local “river”
On this attempt at gathering food in the “wild”, I decided to try a local river. Actually, I wouldn’t reconsider it a river in the traditional sense. It’s more of a man-made concrete waterway used to channel away flood waters and urban run offs. But it’s the closest thing to a river I have in the area and in an emergency where I have a limited fuel supply, it may be the only river I have access to.
The river I’m talking about is actually a spot where “locals who know” frequent to catch fish, mostly carp. Below are two pictures of what appears to be fishing tools used by the locals (mostly homeless). Some would argue that the water is polluted and the fish caught out of the river is toxic and therefore inedible. According to a study conducted by a local research group, the fish out of the river is safe to eat. Would I eat the fish? Not my first choice, but if it came down to it, I would.
Anyway, this attempt at foraging for food didn’t go too well. My buddy and I got to the river mid afternoon on a very hot day (approximately 97°F). The fish must have been feeling the heat to because we observed zero fish activity. After about 2 hours in the heat, we called it a day. Now normally, I would claim to have been skunked for the day, but not on this day and here’s why. I had explored a new area within my vicinity and discovered that even today, folks are out there fishing, making do with what they have and not letting the absence of modern fishing gear get in their way. My hat’s off to those that still have the sense to think outside the box.
May 5, 2012 – fishing a local creek
On my first outing to gather food, I headed off to the local mountains at a friend’s recommendation. At an hour away, it’s not really local, but since it was my first attempt, I thought it would be a good idea to try an area with a high probability of catching fish. Realistically, in a emergency situation, I probably wouldn’t drive an hour to get fish, but who knows. Fuel might be more readily available than food. And contrary to what I said above, if all hell breaks loose and I do find myself heading for the hills, at least I know where to get trout.
Now I’m not a total newbie to fishing, but I am new to fresh water fishing. Below is the picture of the trout caught on May 5, 2012.~ John, Modern Bushman>