Some parents spend their weekends playing catch with their kids, or bonding over an enormous stack of homemade pancakes. Tom Nardone and his 11-year-old son Mark have a slightly different hobby. For the past few weeks, the pair have been cruising the Detroit River for crusty cans and mangled plastic. It’s an activity they call “trash fishing,” and they’re hoping it catches on in their community.
“We’ve tried fishing, but honestly it’s kind of tough for a kid to sit there waiting, it’s a little boring,” Tom told The Detroit Metro Times. Trash fishing, however, proved to be more engaging.
Tom and Mark take their boat, which Tom bought earlier this summer, onto the waters with a grabber tool, a net, and a bin to collect garbage. Clad in orange safety vests, they look for stuff that doesn't belong. When one of them spots a rogue bottle floating in the water, they'll call it out and Tom will motor over to the spot. Mark usually handles the actual collection, alternating between the grabber, net, and his own hands. Small items go into the bin, while larger ones are wedged into the boat.
They’ve documented their maritime adventures on a Facebook page, where they post videos and photos of their finds.
In the first video, Tom introduces viewers to trash fishing. “This is our new activity. We go out and instead of fishing for fish, we fish for trash,” he says to the camera. He then looks over to his son. “Mark, looks like you’ve caught a big one. What’d you catch?” Mark smiles and proudly holds up his find: a water ski.
In addition to that water ski, the pair has also gathered aluminum cans, plastic bottles, a pool noodle, and even an old Coast Guard buoy.
“The trash is a real hazard to the fish and to the ducks, because they can try to eat it and choke on it,” Mark told WXYZ Detroit. “We find trash that’s floating and we pick it up.”
The Nardones were never boaters before they started trash fishing, but they have been a part of clean-up crews in the past. Mark has collected garbage with his Boy Scouts troop, and he’s also worked on his dad’s earlier initiative, Detroit Mower Gang. The group meets every other Wednesday to cut grass on abandoned parks and playgrounds around the city. They also remove debris while they’re there.
Tom and Mark are now trying to expand their trash fishing venture into a team effort, similar to Detroit Mower Gang. Friends have already appeared in some of their videos, but on Aug. 19, the pair is hosting the first ever “trash fishing contest.” Between 9 and 11:30 a.m., participants will scour the Detroit River for garbage. Then at noon, the Nardones will hand out prizes to the hauls with the biggest, most unusual, and most collective pieces.
“If we get people having a good time and being a little competitive, we can pull a lot of trash out of the water,” Tom told WXYZ Detroit.