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How to Build a Simple Fish Trap for Survival |With Pictures!

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How to build a simple fish trap for survival

In emergencies, such as drought, floods, famine, war, economic disaster of forced migration, major food shortages might occur. Being prepared with the knowledge of how to access food is a wise precaution for anyone to take.

Fish is an important source of protein and other nutrients and may be easily accessible if you know how to catch them. Sitting with a rod and line may not be the most efficient method of catching fish in an emergency when many other calls on your time may be pressing. So, in this article, I am going to teach you how to make a simple fish trap that can be set to catch fish for you.

In this design, we have used items that are usually available around the house at no cost. Once you have gathered the materials it should take no longer than 20-30 minutes to build it. I will start by giving you a list of materials that you will need.

You can modify the sizes of the items used in this fish trap, according to what you have available and your needs. However, whatever size you build, the principles are the same.

Part 1 – a simple fish trap


  • Large plastic water bottle x 1
  • One liter soda bottle x 1
  • Duct Tape
  • String
  • A weight that you can tie in place, a heavy nut or a stone is ideal


  • Sharp craft knife
  • Glue Gun with glue or large tube of glue
  • Scissors
  • Black marker pen

Step 1 – Assemble your materials

Collect together the large plastic water bottle, the liter size soda bottle, string, and tools. To save crouching down, it is more comfortable and clean to use a workbench or table. If using a glue gun you will need access to electricity.

Step 2 – Cut the top off the soda bottle

simple fish trap

Make an initial cut using the sharp knife and then insert the scissors and completely cut off the top of a soda bottle. You can put aside the bottom part of the bottle as it is the top part we will use.

Step 3 – Place the soda bottle top

simple fish trap

Place the soda bottle top section centrally on the base of the large water bottle. This will act as a template for the hole we will be cutting. Mark around the edge of the bottle using your black marker pen. Do this very carefully as we want this to be accurate.

fish trap for survival

Step 4 – Cut a circle using the lines

fish trap

Cut a circle using the lines you have just drawn on the base of the large bottle. Cut fractionally inside the black line so that we will get a tight fit when we insert the bottle top into the hole in a moment.

Step 5 – Place a strip of duct tape on the large water bottle

simple survival fish trap

Cut a strip of duct tape and stick it onto the side of the large water bottle, and then create two holes just an inch apart in the center of this strip. The duct tape should be positioned midway along the length of the bottle

Step 6 – Tie your heavy nut or other weight

how to make a fish trap

Tie your heavy nut or other weight by inserting string through the two holes and tie this weight tightly to the side of the bottle. This weight must be something heavy enough to cause the bottle to sink when it is thrown into the water later.

Step 7 – Place the inverted soda bottle top into the water bottle

fish trap

Place the inverted soda bottle top into the water bottle.

Step 8 – Glue or heat seal the inverted soda bottle

simple fish trap instructions

Glue or heat seal the inverted soda bottle top into the top of the water bottle.

Glue or heat seal the inverted soda bottle top into the top of the water bottle. Make sure that it is secure as the fish will be jostling this entrance as they try to get out.

Step 9 – Make lots more holes

survival fish trap

When we eventually toss the fish trap into the water we want it to sink. The weight will help but we want to make a lot more holes so that water can pour into the trap. You can use any “rounded” sharp point although to avoid the risk of splitting the plastic it works a lot better if you heat the point so it melts the edges of the hole and seals it.

Step 10 – Tie your long length of string firmly to the handle

simple fish trap for survival

Tie your long length of string firmly to the handle. When you eventually toss the fish trap into the water, this will be used to pull the trap back to the shore to collect your fish. Make sure that the string is quite strong and will not snap if the trap becomes snagged.

Step 11 – Place some bread into the trap as bait

fish trap

Your Fish Trap is now complete and it is time to place some bread inside the water bottle. Unscrew the cap, insert the bread and then reseal the cap of the water bottle. One slice of bread should be enough. If you have no bread find another suitable bait.

Step 12 – Throw the Fish trap into the water

easy fish trap

The time has come to try out your fish trap and remembering to hold on to one end of the string, toss the trap into the water into your desired location where you think there might be fish.

Step 13 – Let the fish Trap Sink

catch fish

Watch the trap sink to the bottom, and then tie your string to some handy object. A tree or if you think there is a chance that your trap might be discovered and stolen hide the string from view as much as you can.

Step 14 – Drag the Fish Trap back to the shore


When you have left the trap long enough in the water for the fish to have found the bait and enter the trap, you then use the string that you attached to the trap to drag the trap back to the shore. The water should drain from the trap as you raise it from the water. Leaving any fish in the trap.

Step 15 – Check for fish

caught fish

Once the water has drained and left the fish in the trap, you can open the cap of the large water bottle and pour the contents of the trap into a bucket, where you can sort your catch, throwing back anything unsuitable for consumption.

Part 2 – a bigger fish trap

In the first section of this article, we looked at how you can build a great little fish trap that will work in rivers and lakes and will easily catch lots of small fish which will be a great source of protein should you need it. These type of fish traps are great and will work pretty well anywhere, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could catch large fish just as easily? Well, the good news is that you can!

I am going to show you some shots of a test carried out by a well-known fish blogger called Monster Mike, who publishes regular Fishing YouTube videos. You can find his YouTube channel here. These shots show that you can scale up the fish trap and catch very large fish indeed. Of course, you need to know where to find large fish in the first place but that’s another story, my remit in this article is just to show you how to catch fish using a trap.

The trap in this example is so simple that anyone can do it. It involves knocking a hole the top of the plastic box, but of course, there is nothing to stop the fish just swimming out so I would modify this and perhaps fix a short piece of plastic pipe (big enough for a large fish to swim through) and push it two or three inches into the top of the box. This will reduce the chances of the fish easily finding the exit. That’s optional though.

Step 1 – Get a big storage box

bigger fish trap

Go to home depot or any similar store and you will see a large range of big storage boxes. Obviously the bigger the box the more fish can enter but remember you have got to lift this box, full of water out of the sea, lake or whatever, and it is going to be heavy.

Step 2 – Knock a hole in the top

cut hole in top of fish trap

Knock a hole in the top, looks do not matter, but you might find you get a neater entrance way into the box by heating a circular cooking tin in the oven and then upturning it onto the plastic lid of the box and applying a little pressure. It should melt a nice round hole in the top of the box.

Step 3 – Place some bread into the box

big fish trap

Just as you did with the first version, you need to place some bread into the trap to act as bait. Maybe two slices of bread broken into pieces should be enough.

Step 4 – Lower the box into the water

larger fish trap

You now need to lower the box into the water. Depending on the depth you may need to enter the water. In his own words Mike says: ”I’m a small person – it’s gonna look like I’m drowning, but I’m not”!! The depth here is about three feet.

In the example this was taken from, they left the trap in the water for seven minutes. The water was so clear, they were able to see the fish swimming towards the box and assess whether they thought there would be fish inside.

Step 5 – Raise the trap

larger fish trap

When you think the trap has been submerged long enough, it is time to raise the trap. It will be heavy and depending on the depth you may need to enter the water to retrieve it. You may even need help.

Step 6 – Examine your catch

fish trap easy

This box is absolutely full of various types of large fish. Now as an expert angler Big Mike would understand where to place the trap and where there were lots of fish, but you will soon learn where it is successful. For just a few minutes work this fish trap has gathered a lot of essential protein which could be essential in an emergency. Simply lift the fish you want into a bucket and put back any that may nor be suitable.

catfish fish trap
Watch Big Mike’s epic catch in full.

Upgrade the Second, Larger, Fish trap

If I were going to use the second design in an emergency situation I would want to make some alteration after watching a video of the very basic version shown in the pictures above. You saw in the smaller version how the fish were guided into the bottle but finding the small hole protruding into the bottle was hard for them to find (the inverted soda bottle top). I would build a version of that with perhaps a plastic cone sticking through the top of the box (just a few inches in length) to allow the fish in.

blue plastic cone
You could cut it to have larger opening for fish to enter.

I would also attach two uprights bolted onto the two shorter sides of the box that could be reached from the surface rather than having to enter the water to reach down to the bottom to lift the box.

You could also put some holes around the outside of the sides of the box (nearer the top) so that as you lift the box up above the water line, some of the water will drain out making it easier to lift. It’s a good idea to keep some water in the box as that way you can easily keep the fish alive if you have a bounty catch anywhere near this size! Fish for days!!!

Final thoughts

None of us know when a natural disaster, civil disruption, war or other calamities will come upon us. Understanding how fish traps work and possessing the knowledge of how to make them is a valuable ‘insurance policy’. 

I really hope this article has helped you get a basic understanding of how fish traps work and how to build a simple fish trap. Is there anything you would do differently?

Have you tried building and using a simple fish trap? How did you get on?


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