Sunday, August 3, 2008

'When lawmakers break the law...'

This tome is dedicated to those who know that when law makers break the law, there is no law.

Not really illegal in MN, bow fishing is an art that has been around centuries, if not more. Actually easy to do, it does require a lot of practice at shooting the bow, a bit of terminal tackle such as bow reel and line, and a fishing arrow. Up here it's usually carp and suckers that are bow-fished, either by standing on shore and waiting to see one swim near enough to hit, by paddling the canoe along a stream with an archer in front, or by wading- usually the coldest and wettest method of all. Not to mention the streams up here have a lot of deep mud for bottoms, so it's the least popular method.
Spearing is also a popular method of fishing during certain seasons in MN. Winter through the ice in a dark house is most common and northern pike are the prey. It's illegal to take other game fish species through spearing, but again- we're trying to survive. Also, sucker spearing in streams is quite common, and will become so again, especially with younger people, boys especially.
Similar to bow fishing, some are fond of taking their .22 rifle or pistol to the shoreline and blasting holes in the water at fish. It does work, and surprisingly well. However, now we've come to the illegal aspect, for MN anyway. Either way, remember that water diffracts (or refracts?) light upon the target, so aim lower than you think you need to or you'll overshoot your target.
A very popular method of illegal fishing up here is the 'trot line' method, whereby a hook is attached to a short line, that tied to a large bobber, and dropped overboard in a likely looking spot and left unattended, very often while fishing another area legally. Usually, three or four, or more, are set out. Before leaving the lake/stream, the 'trot line' is recovered and the catch added to the stringer. Again, these are methods utilized for survival situations- and even then frowned upon by the powers that be. Dang, they're gonna getcha one way or another. Maybe any person who gets lost should just break the law, then the wardens can come drag them to civilization? Sheesh, these un-thinking lawmakers. Morons. But I digress.
Years ago, when people made a living by surviving, the fish trap was a very popular and efficient way to capture a meal. Once made from wood and wire mesh, I'll describe a more easy to build contraption.(Disclaimer: I am not advocating anyone break the law. But survival is survival, use your own common sense and discretion. This is simply a method once used by our ancestors to maintain life.)
Of course, everyone has about a six foot long by three or four foot wide piece of 1/4 inch meshed galvanized steel sheeting laying around the house, so we'll begin to build our trap. (A picture will be provided eventually for everything discussed, just be patient.)
What we want to build is a rectangular box about three feet long by 16 inches square (each side) and completely enclose one end with mesh. The downstream end will require some fancy layout: make a cone shaped piece by cutting a trapezoid shape on your mesh, then rolling this into a cone with the small/narrow end being five or six inches wide. What we want is the cone facing the inside of the wire box with a hole large enough to allow fish to enter, and small enough that they cannot 'find' it when backing out.
In use, a slice of bread for bait is put inside the box, the box is sunk into a stream with the opening facing downstream, weighted with stones or anchored in place with whatever ingenious method the imagination can discover, as well as being tied to a nearby limb or deadhead for easy recovery. Left overnight or for longer periods, the trap will not kill the fish and they can be released if not of adequate size or kind- whichever the survivor seeks. These traps can be made any size- larger streams will accommodate larger traps, but lifting from the water can become a job in itself.
Sometimes known as a DuPont Spinner, a stick of dynamite is not a very good technique for catching edible fish, regardless what you see in movies with Australian heroes. It's only funny, not accurate. Tests have shown that when concussion occurs in fish, only the lighter fish float upward. Larger fish tend to sink to the bottom, or in the case of rivers, get swept away. So we won't include DuPont in our illegal category, just the stupid one.
But we will include nets.
In commercial fishing, there would be no fish if not for nets. Nets are very good at catching fish. They're also very good at killing fish and capturing the wrong kind. However, we're talking survival and the 'wrong kind' of fish here is 'no fish'. During certain stages of the year netting fish is legal in MN: spring runs of smelt and autumn runs of whitefish come to mind. Otherwise, you're on your own.
In a 'grid down' situation, how you catch your meal will be immaterial. However- wise use of the resource will be mandatory. Never ever take more than you need. Conservation of resources will be even more important as time progresses and food supplies dwindle, so don't waste, don't take more than you need and use all you take. Period.
Remember all that salt you're supposed to buy? Get a lot of canning and pickling salts as well because you're going to need them. Pickled fish, if you have the vinegar and spices, is delicious. Smoked fish, if you have the salt to brine them, is delicious. Both will store for long periods of time, come in very handy for snacks and meals. When brining fish, do not use metal containers, especially galvanized kinds. The same goes for your smoker: do not use galvanized steel anywhere. Galvanizing contains zinc and it's deadly, period. Some say the galvanizing can be burned off, but I have my doubts, and when in doubt...don't.
Reminder also: these are illegal tactics in MN, where I live. What your state laws read may be different: just be sure to check them. Any time you break a law, you are liable to prosecution. In MN, sentences for game violations are more harsh than for drug dealers, so be sure to let your conscience be your guide.
God bless, good luck and happy fishing.
Up next: what happens when the water's what you're walking on?

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