Fishing for blue catfish in the Potomac River of Washington D.C.

Fishing for Giant Blue Catfish in the Shadow of Capitol Hill Leave a comment

THE BRAKES locked up and we swerved onerous. Deep in my intestine, the sausage McMuffin and low I ingested someplace in Maryland sloshed in a wave of grease and dairy, worsening an already pressing unanswered name of nature. Chris McIntee’s ’07 Honda CRV thumped over a low curb and got here to an abrupt cease on the triangular sliver of dust and crash barricades separating Interstate 395 from the offramp main towards Capitol Hill. On either side of us, vehicles whizzed by in an unbroken stream of Monday morning commuter hell. McIntee put his flashers on and began taking part in together with his cellphone.

“I informed you that as quickly as we received into D.C. Google Maps would get corrupt,” he stated with fun. He spoke the reality. The second we hit town limits, the Google assistant misplaced her thoughts, rerouting each few seconds, inflicting McIntee to bob, weave, jockey, and second-guess her directions amid what’s arguably essentially the most horrific rush-hour visitors on the East Coast in probably the most complicated cities to navigate. By her estimation, we have been solely 2 miles from our vacation spot on the Potomac River, however 2 miles can really feel like 200 in D.C. When McIntee was glad with GPS route model 12.0, he waited for a window greater than two automotive lengths lengthy, hit the gasoline, and jumped the curb once more onto the offramp. I prayed there was a bathroom the place we have been going, and that inside quick order the fishing portion of this suicide catfish run to beat the winter blues—each actually and figuratively—would lastly begin.

Every day Grind

It began in Philadelphia, at 5 a.m. sharp. I used to be barely awake when I discovered McIntee loading his automotive. His neighborhood is a mixture of tightly packed row properties and small single properties that make up the northwest Philly suburbs. The fog, illuminated orange by the lights from not-so-distant downtown, made all the things moist and the air thick. This was mid-February 2018, and by all counts, McIntee and I ought to have been layered up from thermals to mittens. I will need to have rechecked the climate 20 occasions out of complete disbelief earlier than committing to shorts. It will be a report excessive right now, breaking 80 levels in each Philly and D.C. In some ways it was a welcome fluke of nature, however in others it made the mission really feel much less hardcore.

Chris McIntee with a recent chunk of gizzard shad prepared for a hoo Joe Cermele

If the thought of struggling via Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., visitors twice in a single day for just a few valuable hours of fishing sounds nuts to you, I’d name you ordinary. McIntee, 29, isn’t regular. On YouTube, he goes by the identify Sea-Cash. His channel has almost 125,000 subscribers. His movies routinely rating half one million views, and a number of other have surpassed 1 million. Because of YouTube’s promoting partnership program, McIntee cleared about $32,000 in 2017. Within the easiest phrases, each time an advert performs inside certainly one of his movies, McIntee will get paid. He’s not married and he has no youngsters, so whereas that wage may not make him wealthy, it permits him to cowl lease and payments, and name fishing his job. To maintain the checks coming, he must hold the YouTube machine fed, and in winter, with big-fish alternatives scarce within the Philly space, a four-hour, one-way jaunt to D.C. to bow up on some blue catfish doesn’t faze him. Having seen the outcomes of his previous winter runs on-line, and being racked with cabin fever myself, I signed on. The distinction between us is that tomorrow, he can sleep it off till midday, however my job and children gained’t afford me that sort of recharge.

McIntee had spent yesterday snagging sufficient gizzard shad to fill a cooler for our quest, which was now one of many many heavy issues we needed to drag from the parking zone to a alternative spot close to the Kennedy Heart. We lugged sand spikes, rods, bridge nets, folding chairs, and 20 kilos of lead sinkers alongside Potomac Parkway, the place visitors lurched. By the point we rigged up and received the primary chunks of shad launched over the railing that ran alongside the wall we have been atop, it was almost 10:30 a.m. The shortage of sleep from the night time earlier than was already gnawing at me. Extra caffeine wasn’t the answer. The pick-me-up I wanted got here from McIntee, who all of the sudden tapped the report button on the GoPro strapped to his head.

A man fishing along the Potomac.
McIntee sends a bait into the muddy Potomac. Joe Cermele

“Right here we go,” he stated, springing from his chair. The rod to his left bucked twice after which slowly started bending towards the river with out stopping. “We’re on!”

We’d been soaking baits for lower than quarter-hour.

Catching Warmth

Blue catfish are invasive within the Potomac River, which implies they’re not eagerly promoted as a goal for vacationer anglers. That’s one cause why the fishery isn’t as standard right here as it’s within the James River and Lake Gaston only a few hours to the south. The truth that in these locations, 50-plus-pound fish are widespread additionally doesn’t assist. On the Potomac, whereas there are very robust numbers of blues, true tanks don’t come as simply or as typically. A couple of guides have arrange store within the Capitol neighborhood, however for essentially the most half, the Potomac’s blue cats are for locals solely, not an enormous variety of whom fish within the rat race of D.C. correct, not to mention within the useless of winter. That’s a mistake, as a result of excessive, chilly water typically pushes the fish shallow, making them simpler targets for the shore-based angler. The numerous narrowing of the Potomac via the guts of town additionally concentrates the cats, upping the percentages that your bait will get hoovered much more. McIntee figured all this out just a few years in the past. The largest cat he’s wrenched to the financial institution right here weighed 39 kilos. His lofty objective each go to is to interrupt 50. The primary cat he caught this morning weighed solely 16 kilos, however it was a very good begin. As I snapped just a few photos of the catch, I watched certainly one of my rods arch towards the rail over McIntee’s shoulder below the pressure of what would transform a 10-pounder. Within the subsequent hour, we’d miss just a few extra hits, lose a handful of rigs, and land just a few extra cats within the 8- to 12-pound vary.

Inside that very same hour, it appeared all of D.C. emerged from hibernation. The naked bushes, brown grass, and muddy Potomac stated February, but you’d swear it was June. Folks jogged and biked by carrying skimpy Spandex outfits. Each automobile on the street had its home windows down, the sounds of hip hop, jazz, and traditional rock mixing with the fixed cacophony of army helicopters and low jets roaring into Reagan Airport. Very quickly, McIntee and I turned a lunch-hour attraction. Everybody from cops to college students to executives couldn’t assist however pop over for a chat. They gawked at our amassing pile of gizzard shad heads bloodying up the useless grass. They regaled us with tales of fish they’d caught with their uncles and boyfriends whereas on trip right here, there, and in all places throughout the months when 80-degree temperatures are the norm. At one level, a younger Hispanic courier on a motorbike made a violent U-turn to return examine a 10-pound cat we’d simply landed.

“Yo, may I take an image for Instagram?” he requested. I informed him to fireplace away.

A blue catfish on the grass in Washington D.C.
A 16-pound blue cat within the bridge internet. Joe Cermele

I’m fairly good with small discuss and customarily performed alongside. Whereas McIntee can wax philosophical on fishing with actual fishermen for hours, I may inform that he wasn’t completely into being a spectacle. It was stifling his work. What folks love about his movies is that he basically takes viewers alongside on a whole fishing journey virtually unedited, whether or not it’s an exploratory trek to a brand new spot or revisiting a favourite location. With a digital camera rolling on his head, he narrates all the things, and one thing about his honesty and supply, whether or not in a very good, dangerous, or complete skunk state of affairs, resonates together with his followers. In a Sea-Cash video, you may see him stick a late-night Philly flathead in an unsavory a part of city. You may see him step on a rusty nail and hobble again to his automotive so he can pace off to Pressing Care. Thanks once more to his lack of being tied down, you may see him pitching jigs to snook off a Florida bridge or jacking lake trout on the ice in Upstate New York. What you gained’t see are many different folks. Low secret’s McIntee’s shtick. Even when he’s in a preferred space, he typically finds a solution to skirt the plenty and, more often than not, nonetheless catch fish. Some trusted fishing buddies will make visitor appearances, however even when a crew is concerned, they are usually on a ship or fishing on foot in lesser-known haunts.

Learn Subsequent: Find out how to Be a Fish Bum: These 6 Fishermen Are Residing the Dream

“A view on YouTube isn’t price almost as a lot because it was after I first began posting movies in 2011,” McIntee informed me throughout a lull in bites and spectators. “You sort of needed to get in on the proper time. Nowadays it’s very tough for brand spanking new folks to make any cash with fishing movies as a result of the market is so saturated.”

The humorous factor is that whereas incomes north of $30,000 in a 12 months for doing nothing however fishing and placing movies on-line may make many individuals envious, the fact is McIntee’s income are meager in comparison with different fishing YouTubers, most of whom received in across the identical time he did, lengthy earlier than everybody with a rod, reel, and digital camera needed a bit of the motion—or extra precisely, lengthy earlier than they even knew there was a bit of the motion available. Uncle Sam takes his lower of McIntee’s earnings, as he does from any plumber, instructor, or desk jockey who hates his job. Likewise, as a result of Uncle Sam acknowledges this as McIntee’s career, each bag of rubber shads, digital camera, spool of line, and pack of hooks he buys is a tax write-off. Each mile pushed for this very journey can be written off too.

Chilly Fact

Our first spot finally dried up, so we determined to complete the day throughout the river on the foot of the Pentagon, instantly throughout from the Washington Monument. McIntee had been profitable there earlier than, however as we schlepped all our gear again to his automotive, a present break alongside the identical wall we’d been fishing caught my eye. I needed to strive it, so we dropped our package and opted for a fast 10-minute soak. Solely three of these minutes handed earlier than certainly one of my rods bent so onerous, it could have been pulled from the sand spike had I not been shut sufficient to seize it. This was the one fish we’d hooked that peeled drag and made each try to connect itself to the underside. McIntee ran to get his bridge internet prepared. I cringed each time I felt the sinker hold in no matter hunks of line-cutting rock, rebar, and concrete have been scattered under. When the cat broke the floor, we each lit up.

Fishing for Giant Blue Catfish in the Shadow of Capitol Hill
The writer with a 30-pound blue catfish landed within the coronary heart of Washington, D.C. Chris McIntee

“Yeah, Joe! That’s a very good one,” McIntee belted out as he struggled to place the dangling internet so I may information the fish into the ring. There was a variety of thrashing and some tense seconds till the eagle was landed. McIntee heaved the 30-pounder 12 toes as much as dry land, and the gang went wild. I did too. McIntee was genuinely pumped for me, however I additionally knew from watching his movies that he all the time units his expectations excessive. He needs the largest, the baddest, and essentially the most. For me, not putting out would have been sufficient, so a 30-pounder was past candy; for him, one 30 and some smaller fish made this a mediocre day at greatest.

It turned out we’d be caught with mediocrity. After hooking just a few smaller cats at our wild stab spot, we spent virtually half-hour relocating to our subsequent vacation spot that, because the crow flies, was lower than 2 miles away. Vibes have been dangerous from the outset. Two anglers with 12 rods have been fishing McIntee’s alternative actual property, so we needed to accept the following closest piece of open financial institution. Inside minutes of sending out baits, a center-console known as Take 2 got here ripping alongside the shoreline proper over our strains, pulling a wakeboarder in a full wetsuit throughout the frigid, coffee-colored Potomac. It was so weird that each one we may do was snicker. In an hourlong soak, we by no means received a faucet, and as we packed up, a younger bearded man carrying a good flannel shirt, skinny-leg khakis, spotless Clarks boots, and horn-rimmed glasses confirmed up with a few rods and posted not removed from us. From his mod sling pack he extracted a pair of rubber gloves, which he placed on earlier than eradicating a gizzard shad from a ziplock bag. I used to be certain he caught me staring, as a result of he dropped his bait and began strolling my approach with conviction. Then he blew by me with out a lot as a nod and charged McIntee.

“Excuse me. Are you Sea-Cash?” he requested. McIntee cordially confirmed. The hipster gushed: “I really like your movies, man. It’s actually nice to see you fishing right here.”

Learn Subsequent: Shallow Water Techniques for Catching Tremendous-Sized Blue Catfish

We rode house with the home windows down that night. When the stop-and-go visitors was at a standstill, we listened to the drone of peepers chirping away within the Maryland woods. Peepers in February. It was sufficient to persuade you that winter was over for good. Little did we all know that in lower than two weeks, the primary of 4 Nor’easters would kick off what can be essentially the most harmful, snow-packed March the Northeast had seen in a long time. I thought of that style of summer season quite a bit over the following month as I froze with no energy for 5 days and handled the aftermath of a tree falling on my home. Whereas I haggled with insurance coverage adjusters, McIntee pounded native walleyes. Whereas I negotiated with contractors, McIntee caught some good muskies together with his digital camera rolling. Each of us have been simply making an attempt to maintain the lights on.

This story initially ran in our Winter 2019 challenge. Learn extra OL+ tales.

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