What got me thinking about old baits shops was two things. First, Prevost's Bait Shop of Solon Springs, a fixture for 75 years in the Northern Wisconsin Sand Country, closed a few years back. I hadn't been by it in awhile but on my last trip north I drove by and was saddened at how run-down it had become (is there anything more folorn than an abandoned bait shop?). And second, The Chicago Tribune ran a piece on a classic bait shop entitled Bait-shop owner casts pall by taking a day off--to fish.
Bait shops serve the important service of providing fishermen with what they truly need--live bait. Crawlers, minnows, frogs, leeches, maggots, and whatever else the fish might bite on (ever fish a mudpuppy?). They also traffick in a large amount of terminal tackle and rods, reels, and lures, but not as much as before.
Do you have fond memories of a bait shop from your youth? Many writers did--David Halberstam, for example, wrote movingly of the bait shop of his Winsted, Connectitcut childhood. If anyone has any stories, memories, or photos of bait shops gone by you'd like to share, I'd love to collect them and post them right here.
Long live the local bait shop!
-- Dr. Todd