If you guessed “a fish trap” then you’re right.

One of my fondest memories as a child was when our family lived in Belize for awhile on a short-term mission trip. For a 6-year-old boy, it was about as good as it gets: huge ant hills, iguana lizards as big as I was, and a fish trap my dad made. He fashioned it out of chicken wire one afternoon, and for the bait, he used some innards left over from a freshly killed cow. In only one hour and with a little sweat, the trap was ready to go.

The missionary we were working and staying with had a piece of property that backed up to a nice-sized river. It was the perfect spot for the trap. We went to the river every day to swim and wash clothes, which made the trap very easy to keep an eye on. After the first night, we were catching fish right and left. It was like a miracle! Overnight we went from eating lousy canned goods to eating freshwater lobster tail and fresh baked fish every day. My mom was pregnant at the time with my youngest sister, and it was especially nice for her to be able to eat fresh fish.

I shared this story with you to give you an illustration of the importance of knowing and learning a significant outdoor skill.

In a survival situation, a fish trap can be a real lifesaver, providing fresh meat with minimal labor.

Here is how I built my fish trap:

STEP 1: Getting the wire

I bought 9 feet of wire from our local hardware store. The wire I chose was 3-foot-wide galvanized wire with half-inch squares. I went with the half-inch squares because I wanted to catch the little fish, too.

STEP 2: Cutting it out

Next, I cut 5 feet from my 9-foot piece, placing the two cut ends together and overlapping about 3 inches to make it more rigid. Then, I tied or stitched it together with some cheap, 18-gauge wire to ensure that it wouldn’t come loose. This made a 2-foot wire cylinder about 3 feet long.

STEP 3: Closing the ends

Now, with the center section of the trap made, we needed to close off the ends. Setting the 4-foot leftover piece on one end of the center section, I cut it into a rough circle about one and a half inches bigger than the center section. Next, I bent the extra one and a half inches down around the edge to make it stronger and more rigid. Then I stitched it and tied it into place.

STEP 4: The funnel

Cutting out a funnel can be real tricky, because it is such an odd shape. The way I did it was to simply bend the wire into the shape of a funnel. Make sure it is the right size and then tie the fastened wire so it can’t pop back straight. Next, I took the uneven top and bottom and trimmed them straight. Remember, it’s important to trim the large end of the top to the same diameter as the funnel’s center section.

STEP 5: The door

This is definitely the easiest part of the entire trap. In the middle of the center section, I cut out 3 sides of a 10-inch square. This works as a door to get the fish out and to put the bait in. Tie 2 pieces of wire 6 inches long to serve as the latch. The door is now done.

STEP 6: Baiting the trap

Now for the bait. Different fish are attracted to different baits, that’s for sure. For the sake of making it easy and effective, I went with dog food. Catfish, brim, bass, and even sucker fish seem to like it. The trick is suspending it in the middle of the cage so the fish have to come inside for a last taste. For that, I put a couple handfuls of dog food in a sock, tied the end of the sock closed, and ran a wire through the middle of it. Next, I tied one end inside the cage and the other end to the other side of the cage, suspending the sock in the middle. Now, all I had to do was to tie a rope to the side of the trap, toss it into a deep hole, and wait overnight.

NOTE: For inflowing streams the funnel must point downstream.

STEP 7: How it works

The fish can taste the bait in the water from a great distance and will come looking for the delicious dog food. When they come to the trap they swim around and around, trying to get to the food. When they come to the funnel, they just naturally get directed inside. Once inside, they swim around trying to find a way out but cannot usually find the small hole now located in the middle of the trap. You have caught a load of fish. Happy eating!