Miami flooded in biblical proportions last night thanks in part to rising seas and a warming planet. This goes without saying, but the deluge devastated Miami Beach business owners, people who own oceanfront property, and anyone who likes driving on streets that aren't underwater.
However, the flooding has been wonderful for viral-video content producers and the hapless internet sleuths tasked with separating fact from fiction in the screaming maelstrom that is the 2017 social media landscape. This includes the tortured staffers at New Times, who have been flummoxed all day by a video that appears to show a man standing on the corner of Washington Avenue and Seventh Street in South Beach and catching an actual fish in the floodwater:
"You go, man!' someone shouts, as a man wearing flip-flops and socks reels in a small fish from a small lake that had formed in the road.
"Caught that dinner, baby!" he shouts.
The video has blown up online, and multiple national and international reporters have reshared the image as a testament to how bad Mother Nature walloped Miami yesterday.
But whether the clip is real is another story — especially considering the person who shared it works for a bait-and-tackle shop, which might mean the whole thing is just a prank designed to sell worms.
Technically, it's not impossible to catch a fish in the streets here, given that someone photographed an octopus in a flooded Miami Beach parking garage last November. That photo led the Miami Herald to dispatch two reporters to figure out if the clip was real. After consulting with a University of Miami biology professor, the Herald said an octopus could technically have floated onto the mainland; the newspaper ended up calling the stranded cephalopod Miami's "canary in a coal mine" when it comes to climate change.
And during extremely high tides, fish do swim around in city streets — but in lower-lying areas around Miami, not in South Beach. Politicians have embellished this point somewhat: During a 2015 climate-change conference in Paris, Barack Obama claimed that "fish are swimming through the middle of the streets" in Miami Beach — a claim PolitiFact later rated as "half-true."
Vice President-turned-climate change activist Al Gore apparently repeated this canard on NPR's Fresh Air earlier today:
Al Gore on @nprfreshair right now talking about flooding in Miami Beach. "I literally saw fish from the ocean swimming in the streets."— Nicholas Nehamas (@NickNehamas) August 2, 2017
However, it's extremely unlikely that a random dude with a fishing rod would stumble upon a fish in the middle of a busy city street. And it's doubly implausible that he'd catch that fish on video. It seems much likelier that the guy hung a dead fish from a hook before the camera started rolling.
But there's an even bigger reason not to trust that the image is real: As far as we could find, the first person to share the clip was Instagram user @CindyMarie86. According to Cindy's profile, she appears to work for a Hialeah bait-and-tackle shop called Captain Jax, which opened this summer.
"I think he got his bait from @captainjaxmiami!" she wrote at roughly 4 p.m. yesterday. "Bait so good make fishes come get it on the street!"
New Times called Captain Jax today to ask if they staged the clip. So far, nobody has answered. Likewise, we messaged @CindyMarie86 directly. No response so far.
But after another Twitter user, @DJTriumph, reposted the clip later yesterday afternoon, the footage blew up online. Local TV news crews and even a producer for the U.K. newspaper the Guardian asked if the footage was real. DJ Triumph owned up and said he had no idea:
I didn't record nor do I know the guy. I saw the clip online and post it on here: https://t.co/ULdqJuyGk5— Rodney (@DJTriumph) August 2, 2017
Somehow, finding a fish floating in the floodwater is less plausible in Miami Beach than, say, a couch or an empty beer keg, both of which were photographed swimming through the city yesterday:
Photo by Jamil Joaquin Gonzalez
In more serious blowback to the mass flooding, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado today held a news conference asking city voters to approve a $400 million tax plan that would fund new storm-water pumps and sea-level-rise fortifications for the mainland. Out on Miami Beach, Mayor Philip Levine said the city is buying backup power generators for the flood pumps that lost electricity during the storm yesterday.
If you have any information about who filmed the urban fisherman, send tips to email@example.com. Seriously. We spent all afternoon staring at this nonsense, and we're not giving up now.
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Update: The internet did not disappoint. A reader caught something we didn't — for a brief second, a gash can be seen under the fish's mouth, suggesting the fish was caught beforehand and bled out. Supermarket-bought fish often have this sort of