March 25, 2008
Lance Butler an aquatic biologist with the Philadelphia Water Department, sent it to me after I was asking after the health of the Schuylkill River.
"We’ve had this major resurgence," he said. "It's loaded with different species. I can give you 45 different species of fishes we’ve surveyed from the Flat Rock Dam to the confluence of the Delaware."
So he e-mailed a shot of a big ol' striped bass they netted from the tidal waters just below the Fairmount Dam. Note the Waterworks in the background. That's a Center City fish. It weighed about 30 pounds.
The reason I was asking? A Comcast show called "City Limits" airs Friday on the Versus network in which championship angler Mike Iaconelli fishes the Schuylkill. He's done the the East River, the Potomac, The Chicago River. Here, he's got six hours to catch and release three large-mouth and two small-mouth bass as the camera rolls and the clock ticks.
If you are a YouTube fan or watch fishing on cable TV you might recognize the Philly-born Iaconelli, who moved to Runnemede, N.J., when he was five and has fished the Schuylkill for a quarter century. The videos have titles like "Never Give Up!" and "Never Leave the Boat!" He is an excitable boy. Think the Jim Cramer of anglers.
One such video begins with him screaming "Big one! Big One! Oh my God! This is a giant!" as he reels in a scrappy bass, a species he calls "a little ball of muscle." That particular catch won him the 2003 Bassmaster Classic on the Delta. He's a big fish himself.
In person he is much more low key. I met him along the Waterworks Tuesday afternoon as the sun was low over the expressway and a dozen or so young men in hoodies fished for catfish. Iaconelli was touting the virtues of urban fishing - how the remnants of the river's industrial past creates challenging nooks and crannies in which fish gather to feed or hide from predators like Iaconelli (pronounced Ike-o-nelli).
The challenge, he says, is picking among the 20 or casts he knows -- or make up new ones on the spot to sneak his bait next to the sewer outflows and bridge pilings and barge ties and entice a hungry fish.
Below us the noise from the young fishermen rises. Someone has a hooked a channel catfish, a two or three pounder. "These are city kids who love to fish, Iaconelli enthuses. "It's what I'm talking about. Look at his face. He's using a spinner rod. I went out on this river with a $50,000 speed boat that does 70 miles per hour. Here you've got kids with equipment that doesn't cost $50.
"Look at his tackle box. It's tagged with graffiti! That's urban fishing right there!"
So back to the big damed bass. A beautiful fish, but could you eat it?
Not so much, says Mike Kaufmann of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. The state has issued a health advisory for stripers pulled from the tidal portions of the Schuylkill River. The commission recommends that no one eat more than eight ounces of the fish. A month.
Which means that baby could safely feed a few dozen of your closest friends.
February 04, 2008
I Hate New York
It's about a bunch of aged trout fishermen (the men are aged, not the trout) who are angry, angry, over the loss of their fishing hole of four decades.
An institution that does good has done these men wrong, they gripe in a way that only old salts in Navy caps can.
With trout season approaching, it's a tale of bait and switch.
(Sorry, it's early)
That's one piece I'm contemplating for this week. The other might just have to be a family story. I've been laboring over what to get my mother, who turns 80 this weekend. So far, I've made her a running mix for her iPod, because the old one had too much rap for her taste. She's got legs.
I hope the present will take her mind off the fall of her once-perfect Patriots last night. Nothing will help me. I just can't buy the Triumph of the Underdog theme when the underdog has an NY on its helmet. I just can't feel anything but loss. And hate.
How could I have bet on the game?
I don't bet.
But my college roommate, from Riverdale, was getting cocky. A gentleman's wager, he offered. And he wanted the points. I was a little hesitant. You don't trifle with matters of the heart. I remember the 1986 World Series: I made the mistake of calling him, clucking, seconds before everything went south.
Yet, my heart was only halfway in this one. Sure, the Pats play three miles from my boyhood home, but I have grown a little tired of the entitlement of New England fans.
I have to re-read that line to believe I wrote it.
But it's true. They expect victory. I grew up, certainly with the Red Sox, praying for victory, ready for collapse. Humility is a beautiful thing, especially in a winner.
So I didn't share the swagger. Then I went to a Flyers game with a friend from the neighborhood Saturday night, and we feasted for about an hour on New York and New York teams. "They're going to crush the Giants," he said, laying out exactly how and why my Patriots would stay perfect, and then I sent a message to my old roommie.
The wager will be one cd, mixed by the loser, that forms a musical tribune to the life and accomplishments of the winner. By this I don't mean, a tribute to the Patriots or Giants. I mean a tribute to the winning bettor. In other words, an indulgence too awful to contemplate.
He e-mailed back. Throw in a dinner at a restaurant of the winner's choice.
Now I've got to pay.
The problem here is that he lives the high life in L.A. and next time we meet it will be at some real-life Hollywood set where I will feel like Nick Nolte in Down and Out in Beverly Hills and will have to pocket the dinner rolls. But that's not the real problem. It's not going to be nearly as difficult as having to sit down and program 80 minutes of songs in tribute to my old roommie, who is once again a winner at my expense.
I hate New York.