Survival fishing techniques bank lines

This guest series is by Zach of

Bank lines are a form of fishing similar to trot lines. For those that do not know about trot lines, they are a way to fish without being present watching the pole. Below is a diagram of what a bank line usually looks like.

pic of survival fishing line.To make a bank line, all you need is some heavy fishing line (I recommend 100+ lb. test), swivels, and hooks. You will also need two anchors, one on land and another for the water. The water anchor can be a rock or branch, make sure the anchor isn’t too small or too large—you will need to throw it out as far as you can in order for this setup to work well. There are many custom things that can be done to a trotline, but at bare minimum you only need line, knot-making skills, swivels, and hooks.

This article is my favorite for making a simple trotline. If you have the time and live in an area where fishing would be important in a survivalist situation, I suggest making an emergency trotline ahead of time. They take up very little space and weigh next to nothing, but can be a fair amount of labor upfront to get it correctly setup.

You need to know about bank lines because they are efficient! People commonly drop off these fishing rigs in the morning and pick them up at night or the next day, thus you can be off getting other things done while the trotlines do the fishing for you. Keep in mind, however, that depending on the presentation, many trot lines and bank lines end up getting stolen by other anglers. This is why I suggest a bank line rather than a trot line—keep the rig low profile.

In the diagram above, the line is tied to a tree, but sometimes people will bury a PVC pipe in the mud and tie the line to the PVC pipe to make everything as hidden as possible. If you were to survive by yourself hiding the bank line isn’t too much of an issue, but if there was a survivalist situation where many people were looking for food to steal, hiding your bank line is a must. When checking/putting out your bank line make sure nobody is around to watch as well.

Depending on the area you live, bank lines can draw up many different kinds of fish—most prominently catfish in the south. People usually use them on creeks or rivers. Fish can sometimes be fairly discriminating of bait used on a trot line. In the true spirit of efficiency, I think bugs or small seeds/fruits found around the body of water would work best as bait. Scrap meat from another meal that would work well too. In general, the stinkier and more rotten the bait is the better. Stinky, rotten bait broadcasts scent in the water and brings fish in from further away.

If you aren’t catching anything, the fish either aren’t there or they do not like the bait. Experiment with some different baits on the line to conclude if they like one bait or another. If they aren’t taking any of the baits the fish probably aren’t around—move the bank line to another safe location. If you don’t know where to put the trot line in the first place, find a place that has some deep water and looks like an “active” area. By active, I mean an area that has a fair amount of wildlife around—birds, bugs, frogs, minnows, usually when there are these organisms around, the larger fish are never far away.

In conclusion, a survivalist scenario requires you to cover all your bases because you never know what will happen. Perhaps you get an injury where you cannot go out and forage/hunt for food—bank lining is a good alternative. While bank lining can be fairly easily done with the right supplies, it doesn’t hurt to have things sorted out ahead of time. Depending on your situation, it may even be worth it to stake out some areas ahead of time to figure the best or most hidden places to put out the bank line. In terms of saving calories and remaining efficient with time, bank lines represent one of the most efficient survivalist strategies out there.

Zach is an avid outdoorsman and writes about all things fishing over at his blog Check out his site for great fishing articles and fishing reports.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. axelsteve says:

    I ive who has a catch and release wild trout license plate frame on his a county with a lake in it,along with a few smaller lakes.Bank lines may be a good thing to have when things get worse or for some folks who are experiencing tough times now.There is also some streams where a bank or trot line would be useful for trout.I have a relative who has a catch and release wild trout sticker on his truck.I am more into catch and eat wild trout type personally.

  2. axelsteve says:

    That did not come out right. I should not try to post before coffee in the morning.

  3. SurvivorDan says:

    I have used a trot line in my misspent youth. However, that was in another country under exigent circumstances – we was out of C-rations and very hungry.
    This technique is illegal in most states. But I know an experienced outdoorsman is aware of that. I just mention it so the WolfPack doesn’t experiment with it………openly.
    Great way to get some fresh protein in the event of TEOTWAWKI. Such techniques need to be practiced so be aware of the laws in your state and watch out for Fish & Game.
    Potential life saving article Zach. Good job.

    As I cast a line once in a while, I will definitely check out your site.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      Tried to reply on while I was out battling with the dept. of motor vehicles but can’t get the hang of my new phone.
      I was just saying that we Japicans like eatin’ bass much more than most trout. Hell…my 86 y.o. mother tells me to go get her some nice sunfish on occasion. I have a bobber.

      You fishermen and wannabe fishermen should go check out The whiz bang site is forthcoming but still some good articles on there now. Want to learn about bass fishing? Check it out.

      • axelsteve says:

        Dan Crappie? I guess that is how you spell them. Are popular with Asians and some Indians in my area. I think some Africans do also.

        • SurvivorDan says:

          What? Crappies for us furriners only? My cracker buddy loves eatin’ crappie. He’s an pasty faced Irish Iowa farm boy.
          Or was that just a suggestion for scaly prey. We caught some crappie amongst the bass out at Lake Alamo last month.
          We et ’em there. Fresh! Tasty!

    • Trotlines or banklines are not illegal in any state some do require names and similar identifiers. Some states have certain regulations but not illegal

  4. recoveringidiot says:

    Zach, good article! Trot and bank lines are way up on my list of ways too eat when times get hard. I would add a couple wire or bottle traps for bait (and eating if you don’t catch anything bigger).
    Limb lines work good for turtles, they give a little so its harder for him to pull off. Can’t hide them so good and a small boat makes setting them easy. I have used a weeding hoe to pull a limb back to the bank to tie a line on then drag it back to check and retrieve our turtle.
    can you tell I like fish?

    • "Big Jim" says:

      It’s plain that you also like turtles , I do as well ! One of
      my favorite creole recipes is turtle sauce picante over rice w/corn dodgers and home brew . Some critters will surprise
      you as to how good they taste until you learn to fix em up !

      • recoveringidiot says:

        “Big Jim”
        Yes, it was a bit like the tv show “Swamp people” when I was growing up. My family would only turn down “tainted” meat and rotten veggies. I have my eye on a canal that the muskrats are in. Nobody traps because the no fur crowd killed the hide market years ago but the rats are not bad eating especially when they get fat on field corn. There’s lots to eat if you are willing and live in an area like I do.

  5. Good article. You could have given more info such as how far apart the swivels should be from each other, how best to attach the swivels to the main line, etc. Fish tend to stay on the hooks better if the lines do not become entangled. I definitely have a trot/bank line in my kit.

    • Prudent says:

      Axe…. He did! scroll up to the blue titled “makeing a simple troutline” tsall there.

  6. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    I also enjoyed the article, I wish our area had more waterways where this information would be more useful.

    I’d suggest also looking into yo-yos and submerged wire traps (traps highly illegal in most areas – check your wildlife regs!).

  7. JP in MT says:

    During a TEOTWAWKI event, you will need to find ways to harvest your calories in the most efficient way, using as few as possible. This is another great way to do it.

    Many people up here are under the impression that they will hunt and fish their way out of it. I’ve got a news flash for them:
    “How long did it take for you to get your last elk/deer? How long will it take without your truck to use?”
    “You drove your boat to the lake, trolled around for 9 hours, and caught how many?”

    They fail to look at the entire picture and assume that the Fed’s won’t have the fuel or the time to follow them into the woods.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      Well there will be no hunting seasons with specified hunting areas and restrictions. Large game traps that are illegal now will be utilized. I am keeping my eyes open for a large seine for use during exigent circumstances.
      Many a time I could have harvested several deer at one time but for the restrictions of having sufficient tags. How many times could a fisherman have gotten many more fish but for limits?

      I believe unconventional methods will help during a Collapse but everyone and their uncle will be banging away at the available critters. Lack of management will reduce their numbers too much.
      But then again there may be far fewer people shortly after a cataclysmic Collapse.
      Plan now for more efficient ways to secure meat than is currently legal. More importantly be prepared to preserve the meat off grid.

  8. Soggy Prepper says:

    I had never heard of this before. It’s something I will remember and hopefully will never have to use. But after teotwawki it will come in handy!

  9. MuddyFork says:

    Great article and good descriptions, reminded me of my youth! Bank lines, trot lines, yo-yos, crawfish/bait fish traps are easy to use and produce like nothing else. It’s a great thing to have a mess of fish when you wake up at home in the morning and you don’t even have to fight the skeeters. For those who have not used any of these devices, just think of them as traps or snares which hunt for you while you’re away. If you have a fishable body of water nearby, you must have some of these in your arsenal.

  10. tommy2rs says:

    A cast net is a good way to see what natural bait is available. If nothing bites the net can provide small stuff for the soup pot. Takes a bit of practice to get the technique down so you throw a circle and not a mess. A three or four foot cast net will do the job. The bigger ones get a little heavy to carry around all the time.

    When I worked land jobs we’d fish in the tanks and ponds on the leases. I would use my ultralight tackle and the guys from Louisiana would laugh and break out the seine. One sweep through the pond or tank with the seine and it was fish fry time for the whole rig.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      Same in Hawaii tommy2rs. I’d watch rod and reel guys patiently waiting half the day for a nibble. Sometimes my dad and I were among them.
      Then some local boys would come up with a net and get 50 fish in one sweep and go home. As a little kid I would go up to the netters and usually they would give me a fish or two to take home.

    • George is Learning says:

      prolly a easy way to catch some ducks or other fowl as well

  11. Jarhead 03 says:

    I’ve done this in Okinawa Japan with some locals. They had a ser distance between each line and with rings attached with a pull line tether sort of like a flag pole so they could be pulled in and set back out.

    Another technique we used in survival school in Panama and Northern California was with our pack hammock in conjunction with rocks and limbs formin a channel the fish would flow into the net and we had a line attached to bring it up and in.

    Seen Asians up on a camping trip with long limbs slapping the water knocking fish out and the kids going into pick the up. DFG caught them and got a hefty fine. It was effective in low laying streams, ponds and pools.

    A technique I saw in Africa was with woven baskets on channels they would dam up and the base of the basket is thatched with small openings were water flows through and the fish channel in and the scoop them up and out onto large baskets. So many great techniques.

  12. SurvivorDan says:

    Hawaiians were known for their rock weirs. Some still stand after more than a hundred years. They isolate your fish into a small area for easy pickin’s. Another great (unsportsmanlike) way to harvest fish.
    Mo’ fish for da table, brah.

  13. George is Learning says:

    Great stuff. I love the hidden aspect of the bank line. I’ve used gallon jugs with a line sinker and bait to catch catfish. Toss the gallon jugs out in the early evening and come back the next morning to a nice amount of catfish. Ofc you’ll need a way to get the gallon jugs out into the lake (boat).
    The bank line will pretty much do the same thing and its hidden. no reason you couldnt place multiple bank lines around a lake. Great stuff thanks .

    • George is Learning says:

      a gig is a nice fishing device as well and also doubles for a decent weapon 🙂

    • When it comes to TEOTWAKI, ditch the milk jugs and attach your trotlines to pieces of tree trunk, large branches, etc. OpSec is secured and only you know which branch is yours.

  14. Funny I was just telling a buddy today most guys plan to hunt to feed their family’s.Hell most don’t hunt Now,yet when the SHTF they gonna be the Great white hunters? BS! I told my friend I have as much or more fishing and trapping equipment than hunting. Bank lines,trotlines,juglines,yo-yo’s.Etc. Gain calories don’t expend calories! Great post.


    • SurvivorDan says:

      Great advice China. Set 12 traps (on land and water) – check every 5 hours or so and eat regular. Fish, hunt and gather for second line of food acquisition.

      “Gain calories don’t expend calories! ”

      Once, I, at my then 14 y.o. nephew’s suggestion, helped him chase lizards around for 30 minutes until we got one. Then I explained that we had burned hundred’s more calories than the little lizard was going to supply us.

  15. Uncle Charlie says:

    I used to fish all the time until I got sick 20 years ago. I would fish for pan fish from my boat and use set hooks and jugs for catfish. Jugging and trot lines are legal in both KY and GA if you follow the rules. In GA you can only catch non-game fish this way and 99 times or more out of 100, that is all you get so there is no problem. We used to drop the jugs around the cove at dusk and pick them up at dawn. The success rate for this percentage wise is not great, but it only takes one large catfish to supplement breakfast with fried fish for everyone.

  16. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    you can use the same limb/bank/trotline techniques for game animals. If you put corn on a hook at knee high level it can be used to catch turkey etc.
    This is very ilegal and I dont condone breaking the law now but it is something to keep in mind for emergencies

    • SurvivorDan says:

      Corn on a hook for turkey. I’m guessing #8 or #10 so they swallow it. Now that is interesting Matt. For survival emergencies only, of course.

  17. Sometimes a different bait will work wonders. We fished a flooded river in ’93 for bait we were using little bitty blue gills we seined from a pond. We massacred catfish that night. Upon doing autopsies of the fish we caught, we found they were stuffed full of nightcrawlers. They simply wanted a change of taste I guess.

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!