How Delaware Ruined Catfishing

I stood on the south bank of the Delaware’s C&D Canal seething. The gorgeous morning laughed at me as cast after cast inevitably snagged on the ocean of boulders used to build the waterway. The southside is almost unfishable because of the enormous rocks.
But on the north side – heaven. There are plenty of spots where the bank is shallow and access to the gentle moving water is generous and for that matter – safe.
The north side has a gorgeous fishing pier jutting out to the water. Disabled anglers can drive up to the pier, roll up, bait hooks, toss a line in and fight the battle royal. To be clear the facilities are there just waiting, but while they can do it – they may not.

 

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The steep rocky bank on hte South side

The pier, the road, and some of the great and safest fishing spots are denied disabled and able-bodied anglers. You see, vehicular traffic is prohibited on the north side because – ironically – that is reserved for people who limbs work – it’s bicycles and runners only.

 
The gorgeous pier is now effectively off-limits. State leaders will tell you (with a wink and a not) people can still fish from the pier; one just has to walk there from the parking area, but

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The Gorgeous Pier No One Can Use

that’s not reasonable. From the parking area to the fishing spots is quite a haul and it is all but impossible for a wheel chair to make.

 
So the people who fork over money for fishing licenses are sent to unfishable on the side of the canal, while the cyclists and runners – who pay nothing – frolic on North side.

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The One That Got Away

Sunset along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Friday burst down that slow moving tidal water as reds, purples, blues and a single rainbow bouncing off the clouds offered consolation; the only thing biting for me were mosquitos. My wife was having a record night pulling in one white perch after another.

In the Army they call it Early Evening Nautical Twilight (EENT) and it’s that time of evening just after the sunsets and your really can’t discern things to well; it’s neither dark nor light.

I stood there on the rocky bank of the canal just after the vibrant night show when a giant cargo ship riding high in the water slowly passed by. The running lights of the ship were bright enough to make me think it wasn’t as dark as it really was.

The huge wake left by the ship slammed the water against the rocks and the tip of my Shakespeare Ugly Stick bent and jigged. I thought it was just the water.

Then the rod bent almost in half and my spinning reel screamed; I set my drag to let the fish run.

I grabbed the rod from a crevice in the gray rocky bank. I set the hook and began reeling it in.  I pumped the handle as fast as I could so I could get ahead of the drag. At one point I thought I had gotten my 10-pound test line snagged on the bottom, but the fish had dived to the bottom and seemed to sit there. I gave my line a long slow hard pull and the fight started again.

I reeled; it ran. The fish and I went back and forth, I’d get him close and he’d pull away. My arms began to ache and the rod was bent so hard I was sure it would break. My wife had to pull her rod out of the way as the fish went/ right then left.

There was very little light, but after what seem like a quite a while I could just make out the enormous face of a hardhead catfish who tail fins were swooshing in the water making a tiny whirlpool.

Then I did something stupid.

I cranked my drag down, got greedy, and gave it one final heave and all resistance was over. The rod tip sprung straight up and all I could see is my empty line flutter in the wind as the lights coming from the Summit Bridge put a heartbreaking exclamation mark on my error.

The fish of a lifetime got away.