John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Texas has a leg up on New Jersey when it comes to casting lines in urban waterways.
This week, New Jersey proved again it excels at making grody headlines when a dude in Newark was spotted hauling fish from a sewer drain. Though there’s zero evidence he or anyone else ate the street game—which was washed there from a pond by flooding—the city felt compelled to issue a warning. NJ.com reports:
Department of Health and Community Wellness Director Dr. Hanaa Hamdi issued a statement [Monday] afternoon, following televised reports that showed residents catching and trapping fish in the area of Weequahic Pond and other bodies of water.
"This is a dangerous practice and residents are urged to refrain from trapping, catching, and eating any fish caught on the streets," she said….
Essex County does stock some bodies of water such as Branch Brook Creek with edible fish for local anglers. However, officials said many of the fish that washed ashore during the heavy rainfall that began Sunday may have come into contact with sewer drains or other contaminants, making any contact with them less than advisable.
For many folks, this might’ve been the first they heard of sewer fishing. But Kyle Naegeli, aka the “Fish Whisperer,” has been stalking the slippery fauna of buried urban waterways for years. Naegeli, a teenager who lives in Katy near Houston, has a storm drain a couple dozen feet from his front door. Dipping lines baited with worms and hot dogs through the manhole, he hauls out fat catfish, bass, and even a huge, furious softshell turtle.
The secret, as Naegeli explained to CityLab in 2013, is the drain connects with a nearby pond loaded with aquatic animals. And since we last talked, his exploration of the manhole has proved Katy’s below-the-pavement wildlife is more diverse than ever. (He doesn’t eat these critters, for what it’s worth). Here are a few of his recent catches, beginning with a bullhead catfish:
"Sewer Fishing Gone Wrong:"