If there is one thing you’ll have on your desert island haven, it is time.
Initially, sure, you’ll be scrambling to establish shelter and dig a latrine and identify water sources. But once you’re settled, you’ll have plenty of time to kill. Which is good, because you’re going to need a lot of time to hunt, gather and prepare food. And a lot of that food will come from the water.
If you choose your island well, it will have a freshwater source teeming with fish, so you can take a lesson from your Old Uncle Maynard and use a rod and bait to catch a few.
Having never been fishing myself, I went to a pond with my friend Erin. She showed me how to cast with a regular pole and all that; it was enjoyable, but not very exciting.
We didn’t catch anything. I think it was because our bait wasn’t very alluring: it was this neon goop that smelled like dead fish, which seemed counterintuitive to me, at least until I learned that innocent little trout actually do have cannibalistic tendencies. Still, neon goop?
“Fish are really stupid,” Erin explained, but I still think an unnaturally colored blob must be less enticing to them than something indigenous to their ecosystem like, say, a worm or a fly.
Even if you remember to grab a fishing pole while fleeing the zombie-ridden mainland, you may lose or break it and need to improvise a new one.
This isn’t hard to do. I rustled up some tree branches and some twine, making hooks out of tabs from soup can lids (I just used a hammer and screwdriver like a chisel to cut/sharpen one edge). I also tried a homemade hook a former press guy, Rick, gave me, weighted with part of a spoon.
I didn’t catch anything with my makeshift poles, either, but again, I blame the bait, as well as the group of people caterwauling across the pond. They apparently missed the Fisherman’s First and Possibly Only Law: shut up or you’ll scare the fish away.
Now, if your future hypothetical island does not have inland fishing opportunities, if you’re concerned about overfishing, or if you just want more variety in your post-apocalyptic diet, you’ll then want to shift your focus to fishing in the ocean itself.
You can capture sea life with nets, woven from rope or reeds or hair or whatever else you have. Or you can construct a baited trap from a bucket or box and a grate or small net. (Hopefully you remember some neon goop to lure them into it with.) Or you can use a spear to harpoon your dinner.
Humans have been spearfishing since the most ancient of days. Today, people use fancy, mechanized bows and spears, but really all you need is a sharp stick, some patience and a lot of practice. You have to learn what kind of fish to watch for, of course, when to strike and how to account for the light refraction in the water while aiming. It’s a learned skill — or so I’m told — but again, you’ll be living on a desert island. You’ll have plenty of time for new hobbies.
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As with bugs, you should study which sorts of sea life are edible before selecting your prey. But if you know nothing else, at least remember to avoid freaky fish with spikes, beak-like mouths, jelly or puffy parts, and/or zombie-like moans.
If you’re at a loss for what to substitute for a real spear, try repurposing a:
• Whittled broomstick
• Long-handled chisel
• Barbecue fork
• Sharpened firepoker
• Reinforced chopsticks
• Sturdy pitchfork
• Or an actual trident, aka weapon of the seagods
Or just make your own. Whittle a stout handle from a tree, then sharpen the end or attach a tip made from, say, copper or bone. Attaching the tip may take some ingenuity on your part. You can nail it on somehow it, or maybe weld it.
Desert islands comes equipped with blacksmiths, right?