Can Fishing

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In this outdoor activity, learners go "can fishing" and discover the kinds of aquatic organisms that live in and on submerged cans. Discarded bottles and cans surprisingly provide protection for young aquatic organisms, because the young are small enough to fit inside while larger predators stay out. Learners consider how human activities improve or harm the quality of animal and plant habitats. This activity can be combined with a cleanup day and/or with the Litter Critters activity from the same source. The animal observation part of this activity can be expanded to younger ages, if can retrieval from the natural water bodies is handled by an older learner or adult. (Preparation time will vary depending on how many can grabbers are needed).

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Field Trip, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • pairs of cotton work gloves
  • half-gallon milk cartons or light-colored basins
  • large buckets
  • dip nets
  • strong magnets
  • heavy twine or fishing line
  • long-handled nets (instructions in PDF)
  • can grabbers (instructions in PDF)
  • bug boxes or hand lenses
  • pond guides
  • OBIS Can Grabber Equipment Card (in PDF)
  • Aquatic Observation Aids Equipment Card (in PDF)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Populations
      • Human Impact
    • Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and the Environment

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Regents of the University of California, 1981