Berkeley Bait & Tackle (Gone But Not Forgotten)

Red Fish

Well-Known Member
#1
-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
#2
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

Administrator
Staff member
#4
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

Administrator
Staff member
#6
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.
 

Susan

New member
#7
I'm curious as to why no one mentioned the live bait receiver at Pier 45, when you were reminiscing about bait shops? And yes, I am dating myself when I tell you that this Chicago girl remembers all those bait shops, Tarritano's dad hand repairing fishing nets and the fun parties at Moby Dick's. Boy, hasn't everything changed?
 

Red Fish

Well-Known Member
#8
Chicago area (Glen Ellyn) transplant who settled here 42+ years ago. The only true constant in California is change. I might miss the Windy City because it is a real city, but I am fine without the subzero chill of my youth.




I read his obituary. CJ died last October at 89. I used to visit his bait shop five or six times per year. Always a gentleman and his bait was top line.
It was Nacogdoches, Texas where he was from.
 

Red Fish

Well-Known Member
#9
I Googled this: From the Texas Sentinel
CJ McGowen

CJ McGowen
CJ McGowen, 89, died Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Nacogdoches. He was born April 3, 1931, in Nacogdoches.
Funeral: 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, at North Redland Cemetery with Rev. Leonard Sweat officiating.

Visitation: 2-6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.

I am glad CJ made it back home. He was going to close the shop up maybe 8 years before he did but hung on to the last days until he was too sick to work. He enjoyed the simple pleasures in life. He liked fishing the Delta (didn't prefer the SF Bay) and liked to fish for blackbass, crappie, bluegill, read ears, and catfish. I believe he liked to eat bluegill and crappie. His favorite baits were wax worms and minnows. He enjoyed many hours fishing with his buddy in the ole "Cre Lou" fiberglass boat with a reliable old 65hp Evinrude. I remember his refrigerator with polaroids on it (I had 1, and only 1, from September 1991 in which I caught a 30" keeper halibut off of 7th Street Pier). And, I remember when the photos came down after his buddies started dying and there were less than a dozen photos on the refrigerator at the end. I was able to get a couple going out of business deals as CJ always kept a few goods. I got a second Avet SX, a Seeker Black Steel 270 deckhand and a Charter Special 2000. He knew I like to fish the Bay and that I like to use conventional gear as an adult (since he had watched me grow from 10 years old). He sold me my first good "big boys" reel second-hand, a Garcia-Mitchell 302 Salt. It went over the rail when I was about 17 at Berkeley Pier by a bat ray (and that is the only rod I have ever lost to a bat ray). CJ was like a "fishing uncle" to me being about the same age as my parents. I finally am doing my own guide repairs and tip-top repairs and am doing a good job. It took CJ's departure for me to finally do the things he did for me for myself. I like the personal touch he gave to things. The last pileworms I ever bought were from BB&T at $9/dozen right before he closed (they were $2 a dozen from the start). I have foraged them since or I just use shrimp, as I mostly use them for baitfish now, as I fished 100% pileworms as a kid on Berkeley Pier fishing shiners and smelt for fun with my brother Marty to pass the time away!
 
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