What is trash fishing? Trash fishing is like regular fishing, but we fish for trash. It is a way to clean up our waterways and have fun doing it.
What’s the goal of trash fishing? To find the most and the most interesting debris, haul it out of the water, and dispose of it properly. Trash fishing is part treasure hunt and part environmental cleanup.
Who are some trash fishermen? Well, my son Mark, he’s 15, he’s the founder of Trash Fishing and his twin sister Margot is the current Trash Fishing World Champion. This project was his idea. I’m Tom and I go with them. My friend Charlie is always there and his daughter Jesse, she’s 10. Our friends Gage, Hannah, Chase, Kevin, and a bunch of other people come join us. Anyone is welcome, we even have free tools you can use to help you catch trash.
What tools do you use? Our most useful tool is probably a “Gripper-Grabber”, someone usually sits on the front of the boat and grabs the trash. If you bring a boat to one of our events this year, we have free Gripper Grabbers to give to you, so Trash Fishing is sorta free. Sometimes near the dock we try using a big magnet, but those only pick up steel items. We usually wear gloves of some kind because the trash can be a little gross. People have shown up with nets and shovels and rakes too. Whatever it takes to get the trash out of the water and into the boat, that’s what we do.
How much trash is a good haul? You can measure it a few ways. If you are going by weight, 50 pounds per boat is a good start, but some of expert Trash Fishermen can pull in 300 lbs. of trash. If you measure by volume, a full contractor trash bag is a good goal. Some of our more seasoned trash grabbers use reusable containers like 55 gallon drums we find in the river. A big day might include filling those up multiple times. There is a lot of trash out there. The current record for a single boat in a single day is 2,230 lbs. set by Tom and Margot in the Trash Tauk.
Is there a Trash Fishing Tournament? Yes! We host approximately 8 of them a year. They are a lot of fun. You can find the list of events here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/trashfishing/events Trash Fishing Contests are free to enter and you could win a prize for collecting the most trash, the biggest piece of trash, or the most unusual trash. So come join us.
Is trash fishing boring or difficult? No! Unlike real fishing, you stay busy trash fishing. If you get in a honey-hole with a lot of trash, you can stay busy for the entire time. It’s fun to catch so much trash. Kids especially like it because there is no waiting and they can do it easily.
Why do this instead of real fishing? Rather than catching a couple of fish you won’t eat, you can hunt around and pull 50 pounds of trash out of our waterways. It isn’t unusual to catch 100 pieces of trash in an afternoon. That’s a lot of fun.
What unusual finds have you fished out of the river? Lots! The first piece of trash we ever nabbed was a waterski! We’ve also found a Coast Guard Buoy that was used to track dead bodies, a Canadian construction barrel, a hose reel cart, an electric scooter, underpants, buckets, a basketball, car tires (they float if they are still on the rim), lots of bottles and cans, bait containers, boat bumpers, and all sorts of other things. You really never know what you’ll find Trash Fishing! That’s part of the fun.
What do you need to go Trash Fishing? Well, it usually requires a boat. Most of the trash is in areas that seem to require a motor boat of some kind. Not a big one, or a nice one, just about any boat with a motor will do. If you (or your friend) has an old boat sitting behind their garage that they hardly use, encourage them to come trash fishing. We stick together in groups, so if there is trouble it is easy to get towed back to the launch. When I started Trash Fishing Mark and I used a 9 foot long dinghy and Charlie had an 11 foot fold-a-boat. Definitely not yachts. Now we have Boston Whalers, which are more capable, but I doubt anyone would find our boats nice. Charlie’s 13 footer is over 50 years old and my 15 footer is 25 years old. You don’t need to have anything so deluxe. Little boats are fine. Bring what you have. Row boat, fishing boat, bass boat, swamp boat, pontoon boat? We welcome all kinds.
Are kayaks good for Trash Fishing? Some folks come with kayaks and those are welcome at many of the events, but you should be ready to be towed a bit by a motor boat. You’ll also need a good trash plan. You’re probably going to collect a lot of trash, so bring a good size bin, Paul brought his your curbside recycling bin. That was a good size. Be ready for rough water too. The Detroit River can be rough and it moves pretty quickly, kayaking against it can be an uphill battle. Usually a motor boat can tow a train of 3 or so kayaks, but even at a crawl in some areas you might get tipped over. Check the event description to see if kayaks are a good idea. Sometimes we travel too far from our origin to have kayaks join us.
How Do I Get Involved? First, follow us on Facebook. That’s where we update events, post interesting things, and plan everything. Facebook is much easier to update than this website and people use Facebook to connect with friends, so we do most of our planning over at Facebook.com/TrashFishing. Like the page, sign up as “Going” for one of our events. Then just show up to the event.
Can Our Organization Partner With You? Absolutely! Any organizations are more than welcome to partner with us. If you are having a river cleanup or a beach cleanup, let us know and we’ll try our best to show up. If you have a clean water initiative and you want some manpower, let us know. If you are doing some scientific research into water pollution and you want to ride along with us, contact us. We want to work together. There is a lot of trash to be collected.
Do we need sponsors? Yes! We are part of a 501(c)(3) non-profit so your donations to our cause are tax-deductible. Our non-profit, called The Enemies of Debris raises money every year to support our trash removal efforts. That’s how participants get free donuts, Gripper-Grabbers, and even shirts by attending events.
Enemies of Debris is GuideStar Gold Rated for our financial transparency. No one in the group takes a salary so all of the money donated goes to removing trash. Our goal is to remove 1 lb. of trash for every $1 we raise. We have actually been exceeding that goal fairly well. In 2019 we raised $1,500 and removed 3,751 lbs. of trash. In 2020 we have raised $6,000 and we are removing trash like crazy. In 2021 we raised $4,400 by hosting a chili cook off and a silent auction of weird items. These amounts are great for us.
If you want to send a donation of money or anything you think we can use, please send it to:
Enemies of Debris
352 Oliver Dr.
Troy MI 48084