BY DAVE HURLEY
SAN RAFAEL – Bait and Tackle shops either come and go or change owners on a regular basis, but there is one bait shop that has lasted for a half-century in the same location with the same owner.
October 18th will mark the 50th year of service to northern California anglers by the living legend Keith Fraser and his Loch Lomond Bait and Tackle at Loch Lomond Marina in San Rafael.
Fraser is well-known as the founding president of United Anglers of California, a 2003 inductee in the California Outdoors Hall of Fame, author of ‘Keith Fraser’s Guide to Sturgeon Fishing,’ and co-owner of the bait shop.
He has always been a proponent of catch-and-release of white sturgeon and was a major influence in lobbying the Department of Fish and Wildlife for the San Francisco Bay sturgeon closure from January 15 through March 15 during the herring spawn. His signature line is ‘Let them go, it will make you feel good all over.’
Fraser said, “Art Donati and I bought a dilapidated hut for $6700 in October of 1972, and it resembled an outhouse that you might find on the Great Plains. We inherited our great egret Big Ernie and our snowy egret Little Ernie along with a couple of potential Shiner Patrol boys Martin and Tom Miller.
The news bulletin read – ‘The bait shop has just been bought by Art Donati of IBM and teacher/coach Keith Fraser.’ One berth renter said, “Most bait shops turn over every other month, three months and these new owners will be gone. I would bet on that!”
Well, a half-century consisting of 600 months, 18,250 days plus 12.5 leap year days, and 50 Christmas Days later – we are still here at the end of the dock. Our original birds have been moved on, and we are blessed to have Pee-Wee, snowy egret, Emma, great egret, and Henry the night heron visit us on a daily basis. Our birds have been featured on ‘Bay Area Backroads’ three times and on every major Bay Area news channel at least twice.”
Fraser finished with, “How much longer will I be a bait man? I’d guess maybe six months, maybe less. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, I’m getting old. We’ve been blessed. We spend our working hours on the shores of a beautiful bay.
We adore our customers. We adore our birds. I can honestly say that I have never got up in the morning and thought, ‘Oh drat, I have to go to work.’ Not in 50 years!”
When and if Fraser decides to stop taking the walk down the docks to the ramp, it will be a bittersweet day for Bay Area anglers. As a writer, I have been enriched by my 20-year association with Fraser who always answers the phone with ‘Bait Shop,’ followed by ‘Hi, Buddy! And always a ‘Thank You,’ for calling.