Updated on February 9, 2020

Have you ever been trapped on a desert island with nothing to eat and no tools except for a knife? Probably not. But, you may have wondered how you’d catch any food if it actually happened to you. Or you might just want to go back to your primitive roots and learn how to make a fishing spear from nothing but wood and some rope.

Either way, making a fishing spear isn’t as difficult as you might think. All it takes is just a little bit of hard work. Using it to catch fish, though, is another story. In this article, you’re not only going to learn how to make a fishing spear but also how to use it.





 The first step in making a fishing spear the old-fashioned way is to find a piece of wood. You’re going to need a long, skinny and straight piece of wood. It’s also best if it’s a live tree as dead wood will crack more easily.

The length of your spear should be about as tall as you are, a little longer if you can handle it. The diameter should be similar to the size of a broomstick.

Find a sapling with the desired dimensions and as few branches as possible. Fewer branches mean fewer knots. This will make your spear sturdier, according to survival experts.

You also want to make sure you choose a hardwood. Some examples of hardwood are maple, oak and teak, but there are a lot more out there. If you’re not privy to all the different species of wood, you can tell if it’s a hardwood or softwood by doing the fingernail test.

Just run your fingernail over the surface of the wood. If it leaves a mark, then what you have is a softwood.



Once you’ve found your sapling, it’s time to decide what type of spear you’ll be making. Think about the size of fish you’ll be hunting. If they’re less than 10 inches, chances are a pronged spear will work well. You’ll have a bigger margin of error, but less penetration.

Anything larger than 10 inches and a pronged spear won’t give you the penetration necessary to stop the fish. It’ll wriggle off and you’ll be left hungry.



Making a pronged spear is a bit more complicated than making a straight spear. It may be worth the extra work though. Fishing with a handmade spear is difficult. You’re not just sitting there with a pole waiting for the fish to bite down. It takes precision.

Having a couple of prongs to increase your chances of hitting the fish may be worth sacrificing penetration.

The first thing to do when making a pronged spear is to secure the shaft of your spear with lashing. You should use a strong cord or rope. You’re going to be splitting the wood but you don’t want the rest of your spear to split, too.

Figure out how long you want your prongs to be and then tie the cord about an inch away from where your prong will stop. Make sure it is very tight.

Frank Sherwood at Wildwood Survival recommends six-inch prongs for a handmade spear.

Once you’ve decided on the length, find a rock or use a knife to serve as a wedge. Drive the wedge right down the center of your spear by hammering it lightly. Once the wedge is in place, secure it with some more rope or cordage.

You could also place a twig between the newly made prongs. Secure that using the twig as your wedge.

You have the option to create another set of prongs by repeating the process perpendicular to the wedge you just made. Either way, once you’ve created the prongs, you’ll want to sharpen them with a knife and then dry them out over a fire.



The easiest way to shape a spear tip would be with a knife. If you don’t have one, you can simply rub either side of the tip on a rock.

If you do have a knife, the best way to shape a sharp tip is to place the stick on a flat surface and use downward strokes. Be sure to cut away from yourself in case you slip.



Since you’re using a sapling, the wood is going to be moist. Dry wood is stronger and lighter, so the best thing to do is to dry out the tip of your spear.

Don’t dry out the whole thing. Extra weight in the shaft of your spear is a good thing. It’ll provide extra stopping power when you’re fishing.

The resident survival expert at Outdoor Life recommends pretending like you’re roasting a marshmallow when you dry out your spear. You don’t want to burn it. What you should aim for is to get a nice golden brown.





Now that you’ve got a handmade spear, it’s time to put it to use. This is when the real battle starts. You’re not likely going to use this spear underwater, so your biggest obstacle is going to be light refraction.

Combining the art of ice spearfishing and the spearfishing done by free divers, you just might be able to catch something. A freediver uses stealth to catch his prey. He moves slowly, stays hidden and is very selective. All these still hold true.

But, a free diver doesn’t have to deal with as much light refraction since he is underwater with the fish. Light refraction essentially means that when you’re looking at a fish from outside the water, it is not where it appears to be.

This is where taking a page out of the ice Spearos book is helpful. Ice spear fishermen, like traditional ice fishers, sit in an ice house and wait with a heavy spear for a fish to swim by. They don’t “throw” their spear though.

Since they have a heavy spear, they wait with it in the water and drop it onto the fish. This tactic provides plenty of penetration. So, you’re going to want to copy their method of putting the tip of the spear in the water.

This means you’ll have to get very close to the fish, like any spear fishermen. But, there’s another degree of difficulty since you won’t be able to get as much speed on your throw from such close quarters. That’s why it’s better to think of your spear as a tool to pin the fish.

Get up close, thrust as hard as you can and pin the fish to a rock until you have time to reach up and grab it.