Berkeley Bait & Tackle (Gone But Not Forgotten)

Red Fish

Well-known member
-For the people that knew and patronized CJ McGowen. The shop is now closed after (40) years in business serving the East Bay Area with honor, respect, the best pileworms/bloodworms, and fair prices!
-He would mend your broken rod guides for only a couple dollars (which included the guide) and have your favorite rod going again. He had secondhand rods and reels at a very good bargain as well. His lead prices for sinkers were cheaper than anyone.
-CJ McGowen’s business flourished in the 80’s and diminished in the last couple years until his final closure a month ago. -
CJ goes down in the books with the legendary bait shops of the Eastbay: Lee Anderson’s, Hank Shramm’s, Moby Dick, Monterey Bait, old Mike’s, Rodeo Sport Taxidermy, and Johnson’s Bait.
-A part of my childhood is gone with shop having gone there first in 1975 to the original shop on Page Street (along with Moby Dick Bait that was located where Berkeley Marina Sportfishing Tackle is now).
-I remember my last visit with CJ there a few months ago (as he was making 88 April 3). Then, I visited him at Alta Bates Hospital as he had some kind of ailment that would not be returning to the shop from.
-I am happy to say that I was informed that CJ moved back to the small Texas town where he was from (that starts with an N) to live with his last remaining sibling, a sister!
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Brock Norris

Well-known member
Sorry to hear that getting harder to find good bait shops that offer good live bait for the pier surf fishermen same thing here in so cal

Ken Jones

Staff member
It's happening up and down the coast. Rare to find actual bait shops that are thriving. A number of factors are involved but ultimately it's the ability to make a profit and given the problems with rent, changes in regulations and taxes, availabilty of live bait, high wholesale price (that translates into high retail price) and decreasing number of anglers, it's a hard business to get into. Many anglers think it would be great to own a bait shop, swap tales with your buddy fisherman, go fishing and concentrate on fishing but It takes that passion combined with the ability to make sound business decisions. Everyone thinks they can cook and too many open restaurants that fail within a year. In some ways it's analogous to owning a bait shop.

Ken Jones

Staff member
Bait shops offer one unique thing — bait. They cannot offer the variety or generally meet the prices on tackle of the chains or Internet. But they do offer bait. Unfortunately too few offer live bait anymore. The wholesale prices when combined with the mortality of bait almost makes the cost prohibitive to anglers and as fewer use the live bait it gets even tougher to stock it (since more may die before being purchased). It's a tough ballgame.