Fishin’ Down the Drains


So many of us live in or near cities. So many of us who love to fish wait until we have at least a few free days, then travel long distances to fish. Instead, we should stop waiting and get fishing smack in the urban jungle!

Including, it turns out, by wetting a line down sewer drains…

MidWest Outdoors: On your Nat Geo television series Fish My City, we watched you catch at least one fish where you dropped your hook down a drain hole on a busy city street. For all of us who haven’t done that before, how common are opportunities to do that?

Mike Iaconelli: You can absolutely catch fish doing that. When we filmed the scene you’re talking about, we went to a place where I felt I could catch fish from a drain, and purposely went there at lunch time because we knew there’d be a lot of people around, and we could capture their reactions [laughs]. Doctors, lawyers, Philadelphia policemen, a baker, all sorts of people came by when I was catching catfish out of that drain.

MWO: Can we just try those spots in our own cities to see if we catch anything? And what are we going to drop down there as bait?

Ike: Are you ready for this? This is going to sound ridiculous, but I’m going to say it anyway. Let me preface it by saying I knew that drain. Certain drains in Philadelphia are what I call “back-outs” to the Delaware River and other rivers. Most people just assume this was any old sewer in the middle of the city, but less than a quarter mile away there’s tidal water, which on the high tides backs into these drains.

We go right back to matching the hatch. I said it sort of jokingly when we were filming that particular scene, but it’s true. What do those fish primarily eat in that location? They’re eating what comes down the drain!

MWO: So you might catch ‘em on Chipotle, Burger King, the last bite of your Philly beef and swiss…

Ike: Exactly. Hot dogs and Philly soft pretzels are two of the best baits in those situations. It sounds ridiculous, but that catfish is in the river, and at high tide or after a big rain event, water fills back into that drain. The fish comes in there to feed, and he’s feeding on stuff that has fallen in. It’s earthworms, dead mice, dead rats; it’s hot dogs and other food people leave on the street.

MWO: Do you think color becomes a factor? Are chartreuse pretzels better than regular old brown ones?

Ike: That’s a good question. I’ll have to test it and get back to you about that.

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MWO: From a big-picture standpoint, that kind of fishing sounds really fun. You could go on a sewer drain hole-hopping milk run and actually see the milkman go walking by while you’re fishing.

Ike: It actually embodies urban fishing, street fishing, city fishing, whatever you want to call it. It’s a really cool subset of fishing that’s different, that’s exciting, that feels more like hand-to-hand combat with the fish.

MWO: There’s nothing more urban when it comes to fishing than that, right?

Ike: It’s undiscovered, and it’s all about the beauty of that, the beauty of concrete, the beauty of noise while still being in nature and catching a living fish. It’s such a cool thing, and every year more people are finding it. But it’s still an undiscovered thing.

MWO: The old joke is, you’re such a good fisherman, you can catch ‘em in a sewer drain. Now we know you actually can.

Ike: It’s true, it’s true; you can catch ‘em in a sewer. And [wife] Becky and I talk all the time about ideas to help grow the sport of fishing. I can’t think of a better way to grow the sport than by exposing more people to city fishing, and the beauty of what’s there, including dropping a line down a drain while tons of people are walking and driving by.

MWO: Because so many people have easy access to it.

Ike: Hey, in population centers, you have millions and millions of people, and the fishing right there in those city centers is good, I promise you.


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