An Alley Runs Through It
The Yellow Rose Bar in Baltimore is gone now, but it will always have a place in history as the place where the sport of "rat fishing" was borne.
You would think that after the first "rat fishing" contest was held, the City would have gotten the idea and sent an exterminator and a public health official to fix the problem, but No; this contest was held for three years running before the bar finally closed due to a downturn in the economy.
And so, this article is a kind of memoriam not only to that brief shining moment when Baltimore drunks actually invented a new sport, but also to the intransigence of Baltimore politicians to fix anything, ever.
June 26, 1994, Associated Press, by Shawn Donnan
An Alley Runs Through It
Chuck Ochtech knew exactly where he wanted to cast his hook.
"Just down the middle of the alley, near that water," Ochtech said early Sunday.
He wasn't talking about easing a carefully tied fly onto the surface of an inviting pool in a challenging trout stream, or flipping an artificial frog onto a lily pad.
Ochtech was one of nearly 40 contestants who cast hooks baited with bacon smeared with peanut butter, bits of hot dog or raw steak down garbage-strewn alleys for the Yellow Rose Saloon's second annual rat fishing contest.
Junior Difatta, Ochtech's stepson, took first place, reeling in a 12-inch, 1-pound rat.
"Chuck, you catch it honey, and I'll club it," said Ochtech's wife, Shirley Difatta, a red aluminum baseball bat at the ready. "Look, look, look there goes one."
The, uh, anglers paid a $ 3 entrance fee, covering the cost of trophies and a donation to charity, to cast their bait down alleys in the East Baltimore neighborhood. They aimed for puddles that might attract rodents to drink, or particularly pungent piles of household garbage.
"We're sportsmen," said Ochtech, who organized the first tournament last year after reading about the city's rat problem. "There's a lot of technique to it."
No artificial lures, trotlines, bells, whistles or firearms allowed. No stuffing rats with lead or steel shot "or in any other manner in which to increase its weight."
And no chumming. "There's enough stuff in that alley that we don't have to chum," Ochtech said.
The contest actually has a purpose.
"What we're trying to do is bring attention to the problem," Ochtech said. "There's more rats in Baltimore than there are people."
Thanks for the help, but no thanks, say city officials.
"This just does not sound like a responsible way to address a rat problem," said Zack Germroth, a spokesman for the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.
"What this is doing is drawing more rats to the neighborhood than getting rid of them," Germroth said. The department warned the Yellow Rose Saloon to stop holding the contest last year, he said.
"How can you attract something that's already there?" Ochtech responded.
As with any fishing contest, there were tales of the one that got away.
"It must have been that big, Chuck," said one contestant, Bob Lehew, holding his fingers about 8 inches apart.