Fresh off her Nu-2-U Used Tackle Sale and back on almost regular business hours, Elisa and Matt at Snug Harbor Marina have brought in lots more green crabs for a welcome increase in tautog catching as cod fishing starts to fade around the old Fairway buoy and spots south of the island. Stripers are hitting white Cocahoe minnows at the Charlestown breachway, south facing beaches, The Narrows and at the Spring Classic that is Galilea’s West Wall. If you are comfortable standing at arm’s length from the next guy, the that’s the place right now to pick off a few dozen schoolies and even a keeper or two. One regular told me he hooked seventy-five bass in one session, mostly two at a time with the the second clinging to a teaser fly.
Elisa is a total character; you can hear her voice from the cratered gravel parking lot and once you get inside, there’s a good chance her glasses will appear from a behind a pile of boxes, folders, papers, big gold reels waiting to be spooled and countless rods as she greets you by name, even if it’s been a few season’s since she saw you last. Running a tackle store is tough, with all that summer inventory you have to buy while the town is still trying to plow your road in addition to the long hours you need to work to make it all work. The good ones survive and some, like Snug Harbor, even come with a snack bar. That’s insider info right there: on a cool, low sun early morning, take a few minutes, take a seat, take a hot cup of coffee with both hands, breathe in a slack tide salt pond, long dark mudflats, red and white paper bait boxes of shucked clams with thin wire handles that never fail, ask nicely for something flat grilled with butter, hear diesels and outboards firing, idling, throttling, fading through the gap, see split corn muffins dancing on a sizzling high heat, take that quick first sip then another, as the day unfolds in a sliver of South County that just lives for summer. Snug Harbor indeed.
Over on Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown, Peter Jenkins runs The Saltwater Edge, a fine, fully stocked shop with a new season’s worth of lures and gear for fishermen of all ilks. On my last visit, because he is gracious and passionate, Peter took a few minutes before rushing off to do something ancient called “faxing”, to offer me a lesson in fly casting. He began with a learned observation that women often are easier to teach than men, as “Women come to this with grace, while men come from a place of strength”. Those words come from years of watching, teaching and being patient because properly sharing rhythms, timing and style requires an open relationship between teacher and pupil. As the Chinese proverb tells, teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself. Certainly goals of distance and accuracy are essential but different teachers have personal styles and priorities. Peter’s style involves tossing coffee and throwing paint, but he’ll do a far better job of explaining that one. We need our independent stores for more than hooks and leaders; his shop makes it clear how a tackle store can be a destination and a place to perfect our skills for those of us cursed with a love of all things fishing.
Speaking of tackle, no opening day of trout season since 1954 has been complete without an Al’s Goldfish. Started in the back of Al Stuart’s sporting goods store, they were always American made. Al’s lure’s were promoted on the earliest of days for that new invention of TV, on a fishing show hosted by Rosco Vernon ”Gadabout” Gaddis. Does anyone even name their child Rosco anymore? His show, “The Flying Fisherman” would sell fishing gear at no profit just to track from where viewers were watching and in 1948, he partnered with Al to sell his American made lures. So things were great, then Al got older, China stepped in to manufacture lures as patents expired, Al passed away in 1978, the business was sold, and you know how these things go. Then in 2015, a Mainer named Mike Lee purchased the company with one eye on a failing economy, one eye on supporting his family and one eye on restoring the lustre to a famous and very productive lure.
Mike is a young guy with a new vision for an old company. He has developed a line of lures with realistic finishes to specifically target individual species like largemouth bass and all species of trout. In his words, “Using our process, we put high resolution fish images on the lures – yes high DPI picture of real fish – not an artist’s rendering”. Selling tackle is a hard road to hoe, especially when you walk away from corporate America to start fresh and to his credit, he has remained true to the company’s roots, producing the entire line of lures Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine. Incidentally, our own Benny’s is his largest customer. Recently he introduced a larger 1 oz. saltwater version for stripers and bluefish. I have fished it with an 6’6” LL Bean TS662M rod, the lure has a wild side to side action and a balanced presentation that should work well in our waters. Thanks to Mike, I have one to give away so if you want to give it a test, drop me a line at www.facebook.com/fishwrapwriter and I’ll mail it to you.
Finally, Mike Bucko at RIDEM has posted an opening for an APAIS Seasonal Field Technician. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is looking for someone to work as a fisheries technician, collecting fisherman data at all hours of the day and night as part of their Access-Point Angler Intercept Surveys. The gig is based in Jamestown but the work is where the fish are, pays $12.50 an hour and runs until October. If you think you are interested, you need to be at least twenty years old, have a valid driver’s license and a decent knowledge of local fish species. Given our warming waters, applicants might also want to grab a book from a tackle store to brush up on some southern fish species as well.