During December of 2016 two of my sons, a buddy of mine and I went on a three day camping trip on the Angelina River near Jasper, Texas. One reason for the trip was rest and relaxation, another reason was to test various survival plans.
If a long term SHTF / teotwawki survival situation were to happen, fishing will be an important way to gather food. One of the goals of this fishing / camping trip is to practice our SHTF / teotwawki fishing skills. another goal of this trip is to make observations about issues that people might run into.
There are a lot of people out there who plan on bugging out to the wilderness after the food and water run out at their home. Part of the SHTF survival plans are along the lines of “when we run out of food, we will have to go to the food”. This usually includes grabbing the bug out bag and bug out to a wilderness location where they survival can hunt, fish and gather wild foods.
One issue, the person rarely gets past the planning phase. In order to have a balanced SHTF / teotwawki survival plan, people should also test those plans. The only way to test the plans is to get away from the computer and do something. Being an armchair survivalist is not enough. Make your plans, test your plans, analyze the results from the test, make improvements on those observations.
Sunday, December 25th (Christmas)
For Christmas I bought two of my sons a Coleman sleeping bag each, a sleeping pad, and a fleece sleeping bag. They needed a sleeping bag for our upcoming camping trip, so why not give them a sleeping bag for Christmas.
Monday, December 26th was gear load out day. I spent just about all day going over my pack, going over the boat, making sure the lights on the boat worked, hooked the boat trailer to the truck, organizing my food bag,,, just getting everything ready to go.
For Christmas my mom and dad gave me an Optimus Terra Solo cook set. My personal belief is that you test your gear before you take it on a trip. To test my new Terra Solo, I setup my single burner Coleman stove on the stove in my kitchen. Then I cooked myself a serving of noodles, just like I would on a camping trip.
The noodles I made for catfishing along with my tacklebox were rounded up.
All of the gear was put in the living room next to the front door so it could be loaded in the truck and boat the following morning.
Tuesday, December 27th
Started out at 5:30am when the alarm went off. Even though the alarm went off at 5:30, I did not crawl out of the warm bed until close to 6am. First thing was to get my shower, brush my teeth, put the contacts in, got dressed, put my hygiene kit in my MOLLE pack, then it was outside to uncover the boat.
A tarp had been left on the boat overnight, that way the boat was not covered with dew the following morning. The tarp was removed, the gear was then loaded into the boat and truck.
Somewhere around 6:45 or so, two of my sons arrived at my house.
While we were waiting for the 4th person of our party to arrive, it was time for some breakfast and a monster low carb energy drink.
The fourth member of our party called somewhere around 7:35 saying he was running a little late. Instead of meeting at my house, we agreed to meet at a gas station just down the road from my house. My boat needed gas and the ice chest needed a couple of bags of ice. Just a couple of minutes after I arrived at the gas station the guy that was running a little late pulled up. We split the gear between the two boats. After the gas cans were filled up, we headed straight to the Bevil Port boat launch off of HWY 63 just west of Jasper Texas.
My boat was launched first. The guy holding the bow rope pulled the boat around the deck so my buddy could then launch his boat.
The first problem we had was when my boat motor would not crank. Combined with a battery that is 4 years old, whatever juice the battery had was sucked out by the starter. My buddy loaned me his battery to get my motor cranked, then we swapped the batteries back out. My boat has a generator that will charge the battery when the motor is running.
Before we left the boat launch, I put on a carhartt jacket, pair of neoprene gloves and a balaclava. Even though I am a good swimmer, I wore a life jacket while the boat was in motion. With so many clothes on, and my shoes, if something happened that caused me to go into the water, I would have sank like a rock.
Once the boat motors were cranked up, it was time to head south on the Angelina River. Man was it cold on that river. With the wind blowing in my face, my nose and ears started to turn numb. The good thing, it was only a short 15 – 20 minute trip to the camping site.
When our group arrived at the camp site, the first order was to get the boats unloaded. After unloading the boat, we setup the tents. Once the tents were in order, the gear was moved into the tents and out of sight of people who were passing by on the river. My sons were instructed to open the sleeping bags and spread them. This was so the new bags could have time to expand. The fleece sleeping bags were to be used as a liner inside of the main bag.
One of the things I really wanted to do on this trip was to set out noodles and a couple of trotlines. But I also wanted to use bait that people might have on hand during a long term SHTF survival situation. so for bait on this trip, we were using canned ham, vienna sausages, shrimp and worms. Once shipments of fresh food stop, most people will not have access to shrimp.
My wife and I had some shrimp in the freezer, so I brought it on this trip. A lot of people have vienna sausages, peanut butter and/or some kind of canned ham or canned spam in their food stocks. I have always wondered how canned ham, peanut butter spam and vienna sausages would work as bait. This fishing trip would hopefully answer a lot of questions I had.
Just a short distance down the river from where we were camping at was a slough, this slough was the first place we put some jug lines out at.
Peanut butter was too gooey, it stuck to my fingers and did not stay on the hook.
Canned ham crumbled as it was being put on the hook.
Shrimp, worms and vienna sausages were easiest to put on the hook.
After we got some jug lines thrown out, we went back to the camp to do some fishing off the bank. Unlike the 3 day camping trip in 2010, we were not catching anything from the bank.
Time for lunch. Before we headed out to check the jug lines, everyone in the group decided to eat lunch. I pulled out my single burner Coleman Max Peak Stove, my Optimus Terra Solo, a canteen and along with a pouch of mountain house beef stroganoff cooked myself a lunch.
The mountain house beef stroganoff was good but seemed to be a little watery. Next time I cook some, I will probably cut down on the amount of water I pour into the pouch.
With lunch behind us, it was time to get back in the boats. We made the short trip to the slough where we started checking the jug lines.
The first jug line had nothing on it.
The second jug line, to my surprise mad a Bowfin on it.
The third jug line had a larger Bowfin then the second line.
Bowfin, also known as a Grindle, Dogfish, Grinnel, Cypress Trout and Mud Fish are one of the few freshwater fish that have teeth. When you first see the Bowfin, you might think you have caught a dinosaur fish, because that is what it looks like. While the Grinnel is considered a trash fish, it is edible.
From what I observed over the course of 2 1/2 days, those Grinnel really like vienna sausage. We finally stopped using shrimp and all other bait. At one point we tried some freezer burnt fish, and nothing touched it.
Once all of the jug lines had been checked and rebaited, it was time to set out a trotline. Just inside the slough a little bit there was a fork and a deep spot. Instead of running the trotline across the main channel, the trotline was ran parallel to the main channel, and at the junction where the slough forked. For bait on the trotline we used vienna sausages and I think some shrimp.
The time was starting the get a little late. When the time came to head back to camp, we had jug lines out in three sloughs baited mostly with shrimp and vienna sausage.
After the sun set and the daytime winds died down, a strange clam came over the river. The skies were clear, which I knew going going to make for a cold night.
Back in the late 1990s I bought a US Army extreme cold weather sleeping bag. Because of the bulk, I have never taken the bag on a camping trip. Fast forward to December 2011. I recently ordered a compression sack that would compress that extreme cold weather bag down so that it is manageable. Even in the compression sack, the bag is still bulky, but now it can fit into my MOLLE pack.
As the temperature started to drop, I was hoping these untested bags were going to be enough for the cold that was on its way.
For dinner it was Ramen noodles (picante flavor). Several years ago I read that if you eat something with a high salt content just before bedtime, the salt will make you retain fluid over the course of the night. Hopefully, by retaining fluid I will not have to get up in the middle of the night and go pee.
Sometime around 8:30 or 9:00 the group decided to turn in and go to bed.
Wednesday, December 28th
The time was around 5am when I felt the temp drop. I knew the temp dropped, as its coldest right before the dawn and my face became cold. To protect my face from the cold, I changed position in the sleeping bag. My poncho liner was used to plug the face hole in my sleeping bag; back off to sleep I went.
One of the bad things about camping on a river at the end of December, its duck season. This means you can expect to hear shotguns going off as there is enough light to see. Sometime around 6:35 am, it sounded like someone said “go”. There was then a series of shotgun blast that lasted the next 30 minutes.
When I finally crawled out of my warm sleeping bag, a couple members of our group were already up. The people who had got up before me got the camp fire going from the coals left over from the night before.
For breakfast, one of my sons and I had Mountain House scrambled eggs with bacon chunks. The instructions say add 8 ounce boiling water. 8 ounces of water made the eggs runny. Next time I think I will only add 6 ounces of water. Hopefully 6 ounces will make the meal less watery and a little better tasting.
Besides being cold, there was a heavy fog over the river. From our camping site to the other side of the river might be somewhere around 300 feet. the fog was so thick, I could not see the trees on the opposite side of the river.
After breakfast we played a waiting game with the fog. It might have been sometime around 8:30 or 9am when the fog finally lifted. Was we were able to see far enough to safely navigate the river, the group loaded into our two boats. From the camp site we headed north to the first slough we wanted to check. Out of 5 noodles, 2 of them had catfish on them. The catfish were to small to keep so they were released unharmed. We picked up all of the noodles so they could be moved to a new location.
We then headed south on the river to a slough that showed promise. In this area we pulled up a couple of catfish that were too small to keep. These were released unharmed just like the first set of fish from this morning. While we were checking the juglines, fish were hitting the surface. The group decided that we were going to set out a trotline in this area, as well as throw out a bunch of jug lines.
Thursday, December 29th
Morning weather was another stand off with the fog. This time we were under a timeline. My son needed to be back at the boat launch at 11 am so his wife could pick him up. Unlike the day before, the fog did not burn off by 9am. When 10 am rolled around, the fog was still so thick we could barely see the other side of the river. Due to the fog, we decided to leave a little early. Instead of being able to drive the boats at close to full speed, we could only drive at maybe 1/2 speed. The fog was so bad at some spots we could we barely see 100 – 200 feet ahead of us.
Because of the fog, we were not able to check the trotlines and jug lines on the way out.
After dropping my two sons off, my buddy (in his boat) and I headed up stream to where the trotlines and jug lines were at. As we were heading up the river, it was like the fog lifted. Instead of being able to see 100 – 200 feet, all of a sudden I could see several hundred yards. As soon as we had a clear view of the river, the throttle of the boats were opened up.
As luck would have it, we did not have anything on the trotlines or the jugs.
Back to the camp site to pack up the tents. Once all of the gear was packed up, the camp fire was put out with water from the river. From there we headed home.
Observations From The Three Day Trip
Some of the issues we ran into included everything from safe drinking water to personal hygiene. We used a Katydan Hiker to filter the water, then we used a SteriPEN Traveler to purify the water after it was filtered.
While packing up my gear, I forgot about hand soap. To keep my hands clean, I was using baby wipes and hand sanitizer.