Fish Heads and Tails Pile Up In “No-Man’s Land”

Allan Appel Photo(Updated Wednesday 8:35 a.m.) Josh Deitsh was pleased with the 16-pound bluefish he caught off the Tomlinson Bridge. He was less enthused about the half-dozen overflowing bags of garbage and fish scraps that have languished nearby for at least two weeks.

“When this stuff accumulates, it [really] smells. When it stays [uncollected], the seagulls come down. They rip the bags and steal the [discarded] bait,” he said after landing his catch Sunday afternoon and re-encountering the half-dozen bags of scraps and other garbage.

Deitsh has been coming to fish at this spot three or four time a week, he said, ever since the Tomlinson Avenue Bridge renovation was finished. He said he has never seen a city public works truck remove the garbage.

Deputy Director of Public Works Howard Weissberg said that unless a market barrel (aka trash can) exists on a site, DPW does not pick up trash.

There is no public barrel on the fish ramp.

“Anybody that’s fishing is responsible for removing their own waste,” Weissberg said.

He added that he was unaware of any issues related to fishing off the Tomlinson Bridge.

The Independent was made aware of the issue by a posting on SeeClickFix. It reported that a fisherman, disgusted with the mess, removed several bags of garbage on his own.

“It’d be nice if every time we came here, there weren’t six bags,” said Deitsh.

(Update: After being contacted by the Independent, City Hall’s LIveable City Initiative visited the pier and hauled away trash.)

Deitsh, a New Havener, said he likes the spot because it extends out into a fish-rich spot above the confluence of the Mill and Quinnipiac Rivers.

It’s popular with a lot of other area fishermen too. Earlier Sunday afternoon a crowd of some 20 fishermen had gathered there. “A lot of the time there are poles all the way down,” Deitsh said, indicating the long ramp that could accommodate at least that many if not more fishermen.

That’s a lot of bait, and garbage.

Among the anglers were children, he added

Pointing to the baiting and gutting table, Deitsch said that the fishermen he knows clean up when they’re done and bag the trash.

What happens to it after that still remains a problem.

Even if the city trucks can’t come regularly to collect, Deitsh suggested a “little Dumpster or covered trash can” be placed there.

Fishing piers at Fort Nathan Hale and Lightouse Point have them, he noted. So why not the Tomlinson Avenue Bridge?

Several calls to other city departments yielded the following: Deputy Director of Parks Christy Hass confirmed that her department indeed does pick up at the Forth Nathan Hale fish ramp, and at Lighthouse Point.  “Anyplace that’s a park.”

She surmised that the Tomlilnson Bridge fish ramp may be a kind of no-man’s land. “There are always those things that fall through the cracks,” she said.

Then she suggested to a reporter that Livable City Initiave be called, as it is the go-to-agency for fall-through-the cracks locations and problems.

LCI’s Acting Executive Director Frank D’Amore said that his department does not pick up at the Tomlinson site: “I’m afraid if we start doing that, we’ll be picking up fisheads and crabs all over the city.”

D’Amore added that he would drive by and take a look and pick up what’s there. He said he’d consult with the other departments about longer-term solutions.

Technically, city officials noted, it’s the state’s job to clean up at the pier. State Department of Transportation (DOT) Kevin Nursick Tuesday morning confirmed that that’s true.

DOT crews—using both prison workers and government staffers—try to sweep through the state to pick up litter four times a year, Nursick said. Also they try to respond to specific complaints made through the DOT website. He said the department spend some $1 million a year picking up litter.

But like other government agencies, DOT faces a budget crunch and needs to prioritize, he said.

“We have been focusing on our core functions at the DOT, which is take care of our exiting infrastructure first,” Nursick said.

Of course if there were a regular government trash pick-up, the truck stopping near the fish ramp would have to be cautious.

The parking on the bridge by the fishing ramp is still ad hoc and, it appeared, fairly illegal, with cars pulled up onto the sidewalk. A year ago at this time, city traffic chief Mike Piscitelli said his office was aware of the tradition of fishermen parking illegally on the sidewalk by the ramp and enforcement would be forthcoming. He said fishermen should park in an area designated at the southwest corner of the bridge.

On Sunday, the number of bags of garbage parked and overflowing exceeded the number of illegaly parked cars. Yet it was such a beautiful Sunday, the water beckoned more than the trash or parking issues.

Deitsh (pictured) said he’d be taking his 32-inch catch to the bait shop later. The half dozen others left angling on the bridge didn’t seem to be having similar if any luck.

“We’re always cleaning up. Most of the time, we catch and release,” Deitsh said.

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posted by: Cedarhillresident on September 21, 2010  10:45am

so laughed when I saw this song cuz this was stuck in my head last week

But 2 things put up a sign that says that they will be fined if they leave garbage. and or no fishing will allowed if it continues. Or send someone to collect the trash. Fishing sites in this city are very limited now a days. I think this is a good healthy recreation that should be part of living in the city. And figuring out a way to get the trash pick up is the best option.

posted by: Rob Smuts on September 21, 2010  11:00am

I’m curious what readers of this article think the City should do here.

It costs about $700 to install a market barrel, and since DPW would likely have to empty it three times per week to address the volume and smell, perhaps an hour per week for a three-man trash truck (it would be cheaper to send a regular trash truck by here during it’s regular runs than send out a separate one or two-man truck specifically for this purpose) works out to over $5500 per year in cost to the City on straight-time, and over $8000 on overtime.

If we decided not to add a trash pick-up to this spot, but wanted to enforce parking rules and rules about taking away any trash a person brings or generates, I’m guessing maybe 1.5 hours per week for a police officer.  That works out to $4000 per year on straight-time (taking that officer away from other duties) or $6000 in overtime.  Perhaps 90 minutes per week is more than is necessary, but readers can extrapolate to a number that makes sense to them.

A third option is leaving it be and not trying to solve every problem - perhaps the state and/or fishermen can come up with a solution.  We can enforce parking rules as passing officers are able (since that has some public safety impact), and not deal with the trash and stink.

We have taken all three approaches to different issues elsewhere.  I’m curious what people think is appropriate here.

- Rob Smuts
Chief Administrative Officer

posted by: robn on September 21, 2010  11:11am

Here’s an idea. If you see trash, pick it up. I do and guess what, the street in front of my house and the one or two park locations that waste removal trucks can’t reach are clean.

posted by: LeaveNoTrace on September 21, 2010  11:32am

If the fishermen bring it, the fishermen should remove it.  Carry out your own garbage and put it in your barrel at home.  Why leave a mess for someone else to have to smell or clean up?

posted by: Bill on September 21, 2010  12:33pm

If the police enforced the no parking on sidewalks as enthusiastically as they enforce the no riding bicycles on sidewalks people wouldn’t fish there ... and there wouldn’t be a mess.

posted by: GentrifyMe on September 21, 2010  12:41pm

Anybody want to guess who is leaving those bags of rotting fish carcases??  I bet it’s the very same people I see pull up on my (Dover) street and just toss trash out of their car/s at will.  How about we address THAT mess.

posted by: Doug Hausladen on September 21, 2010  1:07pm


Great points and questions. I am thinking of trash cans in other cities that sends notification when it is full and needs to be changed.

Would it be possible to post a sign requesting users text SCF that trash is ready to be picked up? That would reduce the 3 times per week DPW pick-up to as-needed. Perhaps a small sign saying that DPW will do as-needed pick-ups, but needs to be notified via SCF with specifics in title could be a cheaper version of this trashcan technology?

posted by: elmcitizen on September 21, 2010  1:10pm

Great to see that enforcement of the parking issues reported REPEATEDLY about the fishermen parking on the bridge.

Someone tell me where a wheelchair can get through in that parking mess???

Maybe if we take all the garbage and fish remains and spread them all over the sidewalk people wont park there?

posted by: L on September 21, 2010  1:12pm

How about no more fishing PERIOD if they won’t clean up their trash? Ticket them; block or remove the access. I don’t get it - all the littering in this town. It’s like certain people are TRYING to make it an uglier place. I don’t know if they don’t care, or if it’s an aggressive act of contempt. I, personally, am getting a little tired of picking up the trash in my neighborhood and front lawn.

posted by: GentrifyMe on September 21, 2010  1:44pm

L, don’t think it’s an aggressive act.  Personally I think those doing it are mainly from elsewhere in the world where it is acceptable practice to toss trash in the street. Not particularly pc, but true. I ONLY think aggressive enforcement will rectify the problem. Hit people in their wallet and they learn fast.

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 21, 2010  1:45pm

Throw them fish scraps in the water, chum.

posted by: Cedarhillresident on September 21, 2010  2:31pm

Like the drive by cop, as long as they really do stop and ask them to moved to the designated area when they drive by.

I think a sign saying take your trash with you, by the city and then letting the persons that run the bridge handle the trash makes the most sense to me. And a metal trash container, there are community’s on waiting list for those suckers, I better not see one there first! Blue parks pails if that is the routine you take with pick up would be all I would put there…it is fish guts!

posted by: Doyens on September 21, 2010  2:50pm

It is not the city’s responsibility to solve every problem nor every mound of rotting garbage. I hiked in two different state parks this weekend (MA). Both of them had signs that said there was no trash pickup - carry out what you carry in, or generate while there. It was very clean. Put up a sign and let it go. It’s time for people to take responsibility for this kind of stuff especially in an area that is supposed to be off limits to fishing. Nickle and diming the budget is what has us in a spending problem.

posted by: gentrifyme on September 21, 2010  3:03pm

Yeah, what would be wrong with throwing everything in the water (except the bags)?  Makes sense, no?  Hell, I’ll put on gloves & go do it right now.

posted by: FacChec on September 21, 2010  3:25pm

posted by: Rob Smuts on September 21, 2010 12:00pm

I’m curious what readers of this article think the City should do here?

Your curiosity concerning readers opinion on “what the city should do here” is a welcome change in the city’s philosophy which here-to-fore did not seek actionable input from citizens.

Your on the right path Rob.

The answer is simple, do what you, the Mayor and the BOA have been doing consistently for the past (18) years….more specifically the last three budget years.

..Raise fees and fines… for sportsmen licences for residents and non-resident fisherman. The current 10/11 budget fees remain as they have for the past three budgets @ $20.00 in this category.(see page 7-4 of the city budget).

The park department on the other hand, who admits they have a responsibility, have raised their fees in each of the last three budgets.

The LCI department which has enforcement responsibility and powers, also raised fees and fines, but,they performs no enforcement.. as testified to by Frank D’ Amour above.

How did you every miss this one ROB…...$:+)  ?

posted by: robn on September 21, 2010  3:41pm


right on…that dudes catch would easily go for 20 bucks over at #1Fish.

posted by: Sabrina on September 21, 2010  3:43pm

For heaven’s sake, does the city have to do everything for everyone? Can we not solve our own problems and take personal responsibility for the areas we encroach upon? I love the phrase ‘leave no trace’ and only wish that it were adopted.

Regardless of the utopia I seek, I do not want to see another cent spent on extra work to clean up for the fisherman that can’t clean up after themselves. If the waterway presents such magnificent catches for their supper or for their prize, then they can clean up after themselves! Already you have no fishing signs at the seawall on Townsend - why? because of the abuse of the space. Keep it up and you won’t fish off this bridge either!

Folks that fish there need to call out the ones that are leaving their trash and tell them to clean it up!

I am really pretty sick of the way in which people treat the open spaces of this city and then expect others to go around and clean up after them. The city is not your mother. Put signs up at the bait stores about enforcement and state the rules as well.

Where is the sense of pride? There is no parking on the sidewalk, there are rules about littering and loitering, there are licenses that have to be purchased and presented - all of these rules exist and yet, are not enforced. People think that if you have more rules, more licenses, more tickets are issued that it solves the problem,it doesn’t - it asks gov’t. to do more because we refuse to insist on personal responsibility and then the taxes follow! 

On the calmer side of this comment, how about someone who thinks that the fish heads and scrapings might be good to throw in a compost for nutrient rich soil? Maybe we can entice an organic gardener/farm to agree to pick up the scrap to ferment and use in their growing. It wasn’t long ago that restaurants were paying big bucks to have companies clean out their grease traps, now it is the other way around - bio diesel folks pay the restaurants for their by-products!

posted by: Land Shark on September 21, 2010  3:52pm

Gary Doyens,

Hate to break it to you, but that is a legal fishing pier.  Thankfully, the State had the foresight to private recreational water access when they redid the Bridge.

If you want to enforce anything, enforce the new saltwater license requirements, and I think you will see a lot of the trash disappear as well.

.... oh wait, there’s a different State Agency…..

Smuts, sit pretty on this one…...
You actually don’t have to do anything….....

posted by: Edward Francis on September 21, 2010  4:23pm

Trash, garbage, bait, litter, etc. is what closed down fishing from the Sea Wall area in Morris Cove a couple of years ago.  Its now posted ‘No Fishing Allowed”. Now its clean like it use to be.

posted by: Rotten to the Core(pse) on September 21, 2010  7:28pm

Fish guts, bones, fins, heads and tails are one of the worlds best fertilizers. Put bins out for the fishermen at Tomlinson and all the other fishing hot spots in the city. As Parks already collect them let them have citywide responsibility for this. Let them rot down and use them as fertilizer. They can be used by the Parks Dept, or on community gardens, or they could even be sold off to farms in suburban towns.

posted by: jim on September 22, 2010  8:40am

When you cut up a fish or bait the leftover goes in the water. not a bag. then no trash to pick up. and whats with the cars parked on a sidewalk??

posted by: robn on September 22, 2010  11:14am


Thank you for posting the links. It would be a great service if somebody were to post this down at the fishing area in english and spanish. (Rob…you want an atta boy, break out the city laminating machine and tape this flyer to a lightpost down at the harbor)

I’ve always wondered about fish caught from this area. Two things are very interesting. The PCB warnings are for very large fish (like in the photo) because older fish have absorbed more PCBs (never really thought about it but it makes sense.) I also find it interesting that the harbor doesn’t have a particular warning in the state pamphlet (again…makes sense because fish move around) and that many of the freshwater portions of rivers in CT have what seem to be far worse contamination than the sound.

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 22, 2010  2:46pm


If Smuts wants to open that can of worms (moonlighting for the DEP),
he could post size and catch limits as well.  In response, Smart and Goldson can form a fishing committee to even out the tides.

Why is Rob looking for extra-curricular (off-duty) work, anyway???? 

Is being sent to the Pier the administrative equivalent of being sentenced to the Dog Pound if you are a bad cop?

posted by: robn on September 22, 2010  5:02pm


“can of worms”!!! you slay me!

Seriously though…the clientèle down there doesn’t look rich and if they’re bringing catch home to feed their families, they should at least know what might be in it. Can we get a sign down there?

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 23, 2010  1:01am


Seriously, I have fished on that dock and seen it all.  It is a great place to witness true human diversity with no class issues.  Sure, the Puerto Ricans congregate on one side of the dock, the Blacks on the other, but once a fish is on the hook, all cliquery falls quickly away. 

Also, it is safer than Crown Street, because no one is carrying a knife (countless people have borrowed my bait knife because, they told me, they ‘are not allowed’ to carry a weapon).  Everyone is pleasant.  People Share (especially if someone brings sandworms as bait)

I think following the rules to protect this important resource is tantamount.  I will admit to catching a bringing home an undersized fluke that I killed while removing the hook, but the reality down there is that EVERYONE is taking undersize fluke, because “It’s better than a fish sandwich at McDonald’s”.  I have seen reasonable signage in CT, but not in New Haven.  Really think that it is necessary and easy.  You would think a bait shop, or sportsman group would be all about sponsoring some such effort, but the reality is, most of the people on the dock are fishing for food for their families, as they have culturally done for centuries.

As for consumption, I have lunched many snappers (fingerling bluefish), which are abundant, easy to catch, and fairly safe to eat.  Try catching enough Adult Blues or Stripers to exceed the DEP warnings.  You’ll be the best fisherman on the dock!

posted by: DD on September 23, 2010  7:33am

Let’s keep it simple, the bridge is operated by ConnDOT.

They should post “No Parking” signs on he entire bridge.

In a joint effort NHPD, and DEP Police should make it a condition that the officers assigned this area would make periodic checks.

Signs are made by ConnDOT using Dept. of Correction services at a minimal cost to all of us.