I would catch carp. Well, all game fish like bass and crappie and pike. Wouldn't catch them to sell 'em for commercial, but, you'd catch shad, during the season when shad was runnin' and you'd catch carp and catfish and blue gills. And fish called tabacco boxes that's the blue gill family. But the ones we really used to sell were like rock fish. You'd catch boatloads of 'em really. We used to fish right up here on the boulevard at Hunting Creek. Even after they put the boulevard in there that was still a good place to fish. The water was clear, still good.
We used to fish with a big seine net. I guess it would be a half a mile long. And you'd put it on the boat and well, I don't know if you know what a seine net is. Well, it would be say 18 or 20 feet deep, and you had a lead line that'd be the bottom and you had your net. Then you had a cork line to keep the top of it up and a lead line-so you had it packed on the boat. And you had a long rope, say three or four blocks long that somebody would stand on shore and hold it.
You'd go out so far and you'd make a horseshoe, make a turn just like that. Of course livin' here all these years you knew just about where to fish. And with it you could cover say a quarter mile in the water and somebody would hold it. If we didn't have enough help we'd tie it to the tree along the shore. Then two men would row this big boat out and make the horseshoe and then you'd start pullin' it in.
Then when you got the net in the shore it'd take two men. One man to pull the lead line and one the cork line. You just kept pullin' it in and what fish were in there would stay in there. You'd bring it into shore and that's where you'd catch your fish. That's why when I say you'd catch two or three boatloads you really would.
My father and my brothers used to fish commercially. Now when we lived over there right along the boulevard where that park area is, well we had a big fish pond there. I guess it was about two blocks long.
There was a real tiny little creek that backed up in there, that probably gave him the idea. It was easy to dredge out and they dug this pond out. It had all these natural springs in there, bein' that close to the water it had, oh, ten or eleven different springs in there. All that fresh water in there was good to put those fish in.
In the summertime we'd catch those loads of fish like carp and catfish and the market wouldn't be good for 'em. You wouldn't get a penny a pound for 'em then. It wouldn't pay ya to take 'em over to D.C., so he would put 'em in the pond. Then in the wintertime when the river froze over, he'd crack the ice in the pond and he had a small seine, he'd seine 'em out.
There used to be trucks from Baltimore and Philadelphia. They were tank trucks and they'd be full of water. Had a pump on it to pump air in it, keep the fish alive. And they'd come down here and buy 'em in the wintertime, take 'em back. And there was a good market for 'em, he'd make a good livin' like that.
1943 is when it started and 1945 is when it really got bad. I don't think the war had anything to do with it. I think it was all the building and all the sewage. You didn't have as many people living down here before. You didn't have Belle View and all those places in those days so there wasn't that raw sewage dumped in there. Down here everybody had an outhouse, so there was no sewage dumped in it at all then.
I remember in the evening us kids, we'd get a towel and a cake of soap and every evenin' we'd go down there and take a bath, really. It was clear. I know a lot of people say that was a silly thing to do, but it was really clear enough to drink. It was really beautiful.
You could look down, comin' across that trestle bridge, say 20 or 30 feet and see fish swimming and all kinds of different kinds of grass growing in there. There's not a thing in there, no grass or anything in there today to purify that water. I mean you gotta have things in there like that for the fish to live too, and there's not a darn thing in there like that.
Then back in 1933 the government imported chinese chestnuts, that's what we called 'em and it was just a real wide thing like a star, had five prongs. Real sharp and got real hard as a rock. Like a needle if you stepped on the darned thing!
They said that they brought those things over here to feed the fish. Well, the things just grew and multiplied so that before I went into the service in 1940 the water was so thick that you couldn't even row a boat from here to Maryland. Really, that's how thick it got in there. Why, it got so bad it killed the other vegetation off and there was just nothing to breathe in there. It wasn't even good for the fish 'cause they couldn't get a whole lot of oxygen.
So it got so bad, the engineers had to come along and cut all of that out. It took 'em about ten years to get it all out, but they finally did.
They'd spend each summer, a few guys out of college and high school kids, and they'd all get jobs doing it. Working on motor boats that had motors on the propellors in the back, and cut the grass up. They'd have another boat that would come along and pick it up and take it back to shore. Anything to get rid of it, but it took a long time.