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April 2013 Issue
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Survival grub: eels

Photo: Alton Perrie

There’s not much sustenance to be found in the New Zealand bush, but its waterways are a different matter

The longer the survival situation the greater your attention is going to be focused on finding food. You should have some basic emergency food supply available in your pack, but if not, you will need to gather food in the wild. The New Zealand bush doesn’t offer much in the way of readily accessible food, though one excellent source of protein and fat that is easy to catch in rivers and streams are eels.

How to catch, gut and cook eel

1. To be successful at catching eels, you must know where to look. Eels will gather where there are deep pools, under overhanging bush and away from fast flowing current. Light tends to attract eels at night. They have poor eyesight so rely on smell – use bait that gives off blood.

2. The simplest method for catching an eel is to place some bait into a sock, tie off the end with cord and attach it to a solid anchor on the bank. Once the eel latches on, it won’t be able to release and you’ll be able to haul it onto the bank. Make a net from a shirt if you need help getting it out of the water.

3. Once landed, cut off the tail then the head. With your knife inserted into the anus, cut back under the skin towards the tail end about 2cm then cut all the way back towards the head. Gut by thumping along the inside of the spine starting from the anus working towards the head, all the insides will fall out as one.

4. Leave the skin on, open up like a butterfly fillet and place above a smoky fire and eat once dried.

5. Food should not be consumed unless you have a reliable water supply to help digest it. If no water is available, don’t eat. You won’t die if you miss a few meals.

– Stu Gilbert is a former Air Force survival instructor now running SOS Survival Training