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Survival Skills

Survival fishing video: How to bait your hook with chicken liver

Survival fishing video: How to bait your hook with chicken liver

One of the most effective baits for catfish is chicken liver. Here is one method for keeping it on the hook.

by Leon Pantenburg

I lived off fish for several months of my end-to-end Mississippi River canoe voyage. I started out with several rods and reels, and at the end of the first week, sent home three and a bunch of lures. My equipment choices were pared down to a very basic medium action, fast tip six-foot spinning rod, a Mitchell 300 reel with high visibility six pound line and a 1/8-ounce leadhead jig, tipped with a three-inch yellow Mister Twister grub.

This collection of jigs is all I need for fishing for smallmouth bass in Central Oregon, but it won't generally work for catfish.

This collection of jigs is all I need for smallmouth bass fishing in Central Oregon, but the jigs won’t generally work for catfish.

This was my lunch and dinner rig. If fish were on the menu for lunch, I’d start fishing about 11 a.m. As soon as there were enough for lunch, it was time to pull over to shore, fire up the Swea 123 stove and have a fish fry.

But at night I sometimes went for catfish. My standard procedure was to get some fresh chicken livers at a grocery store and use them for bait. At night, I’d pull the canoe up on shore, bait a hook with liver and toss it in the river while I set up camp. Many times, I had a nice catfish on the line when it was time for supper.

If I didn’t catch anything, I’d fry the livers for supper. Otherwise, I’d keep the leftover liver, and use it the next night for bait. The liver worked better when it had had a chance to ripen some.

The biggest challenge in this sort of survival fishing was keeping the liver on the hook. I recently heard about this method of  using a northwest salmon/steelhead egg hook for liver fishing. The hook is snelled at the bend, and all you do is  put the liver on and wrap around it with the line.

I tried this method on Oregon’s John Day River recently, and the liver would stay on the hook for several hours. Obviously, the catfish weren’t biting or I was in the wrong place. But this would be a solid method for liver fishing on a trotline.


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Survival Skills

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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