Kyle Naegeli of Texas says he's hauling in nice-sized catfish and bluegills from his suburban storm drain.

To many people, the storm sewer is a murky and perhaps loathsome fixture that only becomes noteworthy when it clogs and floods the street.

But Kyle Naegeli, a 15-year-old high-school student in Texas, says the storm drain 40 feet from his house is so much more: It's an untapped fishing paradise teeming with silvery bluegill and corpulent catfish, none of which a sane person would want to eat.

Naegeli, who lives in the Houston-area city of Katy, has created a pleasant-enough series of YouTube videos plumbing his neighborhood's fishing holes. But what's gotten people talking is the action he's discovered underneath a manhole cover, which he revealed 10 months ago in a video titled "Fishing in the Sewer." In it, he drops a line and worm into the drain and then pulls out a slippery, green-backed fish the size of a AA battery.

The suburban angler followed this video with ones called "Fish Trap in the Sewer!," "Big Mudcat in the Sewer," "Sabiki Rig Sewer Fishing," and others. Naturally, people were suspicious, as Naegeli wrote for one film of him retrieving several little fishies from a large trap:

Multiple species of fish swim from the pond into the storm drain. I have caught bass, catfish and bluegill in that sewer. In the first video I caught a bluegill on rod and reel but most people didnt believe us.We brought out this minnow trap in the sewer since a lot of yall didn't believe there were fish in there and we caught some bluegill.

On the phone, Naegeli swears it's all true, saying the fishing for ugh started about 4 years ago. "I bet my dad I could catch fish" down in there, he says. "I caught a little bluegill and won the bet. It was like five bucks."

Since then, he's gathered respectable crowds of neighbors who stare at him as he presses his eyeball against the manhole cover. "People walk down the sidewalk and look at me crazy, and ask me if I caught anything," he says. "Last time I said, 'Yeah, I caught a catfish.' And they said: NO!"

Skeptics might point out Naegeli's video cuts, which sometime leave question marks about what happened between dropping a line and landing a fish. To his credit though some videos don't have cuts, like when he netted a wee fish and also snagged a bluegill using the artificial bait Gulp! Alive! This unedited footage involves creatures much smaller than the bloated catfish you see in the above montage of "My Three Biggest Catches." (Listen for the off-camera admirer saying either "got him a cat" or "government cat" – I choose to believe the latter interpretation.)

Fishermen love to tell dubious tales, but it's not inconceivable that a stocked pond would feed from a storm drain under the street. "The pond is like 100, 150 yards away," Naegeli says. "I think it connects somewhere and that's how they're getting in."

To anyone gagging right now, it's not as bad as it looks, as this sewer is for rain and not for the contents of your toilet (presuming it's not a combined sewer.) Still, the water in that drain contains whatever runs off the street during a storm – motor oil, radiator fluid, brake-pad dust, paint, dog poop and pee, and what have you. Naegeli says he's not interested in tasting the fruits of his dirty labor, anyway.

"It's catch and release – I don't eat anything out of there," he says. "Most of the fish are just mudcats and stuff you're not really supposed to eat, anyways."

About the Author

John Metcalfe
John Metcalfe

John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.

Most Popular

  1. Postcards showing the Woodner when it used to be a luxury apartment-hotel in the '50s and '60s, from the collection of John DeFerrari

    The Neighborhood Inside a Building

    D.C.’s massive Woodner apartment building has lived many lives—from fancy hotel to one of the last bastions of affordable housing in a gentrifying neighborhood. Now, it’s on the brink of another change.

  2. Design

    The Military Declares War on Sprawl

    The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.

  3. Life

    Why a City Block Can Be One of the Loneliest Places on Earth

    Feelings of isolation are common in cities. Let’s take a look at how the built environment plays into that.

  4. Members of a tenants' organization in East Harlem gather outside the office of landlord developer Dawnay, Day Group, as lawyers attempt to serve the company with court papers on behalf of tenants, during a press conference in New York. The tenant's group, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, filed suit against Dawnay, Day Group, the London-based investment corporation "for harassing tenants by falsely and illegally charging fees in attempts to push immigrant families from their homes and gentrify the neighborhood," said Chaumtoli Huq, an attorney for the tenants.

    Toward Being a Better Gentrifier

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a neighbor during a time of rapid community change.

  5. Modest two-bedroom apartments are unaffordable to full-time minimum wage workers in every U.S. county.

    Rent Is Affordable to Low-Wage Workers in Exactly 12 U.S. Counties

    America’s mismatch between wages and rental prices is more perverse than ever.