The allure of the big city fishing tackle store
It was mid-morning and guys were pulling the breeze at Capitol Fishing Tackle Company.
They talked about the fish they caught. They mourned those who fled. They debated the merits of the latest rods and reels. They discussed the toxicity of the East River.
Did anyone know which fish had the highest levels of mercury?
No one could find a definitive answer immediately, and the discussion stopped. But they were fishermen; they knew if they waited long enough someone would bite and the conversation would resume.
âFishing is kind of community,â said Aaron Ginandes, assistant city attorney who spends a lot of time at Capitol Tackle. “It’s about the schmooze.”
He was in the store not only to kibitz, but also to have a finicky reel fixed.
âIt was dying,â he said. He even took it apart and tinkered with it. “I want to get a second opinion on whether to repair or replace it.”
Capitol Fishing Tackle Company, which was established in 1897, bills itself as America’s oldest fishing store.
Richard Collins bought Capitol Fishing Tackle in 1974 after working there. His 28-year-old son, Eric, is a full-time employee, and his wife, Robin, and daughter, Meredith, are helping him.
Inexplicably, Capitol Fishing Tackle Company sits in the garment district, between a clothing store and a check cashing store. (A few blocks away is Urban fisherman, a fly fishing tackle vendor.) For the record, Capitol sells practical clothing, including designer T-shirts and bad weather gear.
It boldly announces itself with the neon sign that has been part of its facade since 1941.
Its displays are no frills. Rods stand at attention in the center aisle, reels are lined up in utility display cases, and accessories, from lures and lines to nets and hooks, hang on the wall.
Stuffed deer heads, which appear to have nothing to do with fishing, are mounted high around the room. Eric Collins mentioned that there were more in the basement.
The wall behind the body is decorated with a pair of sailboats, taxidermy feats of strength. Dozens of grimacing photos pasted on the shelves show customers and their shots.
The footage caught the attention of 4-year-old Bridgette Michiels, an angler with a release for much of her life, who was visiting the shop for the first time with her father, Maurice.
In June, while fishing on a lake in Wayne, New Jersey, Bridgette caught a pike almost as big as her.
Mr Michiels, who works in commercial real estate, showed it on his smartphone and then allowed Bridgette, who had grabbed her hand, to wind it towards the veneer wall, where she selected a bunch of decoys sparkles and handed them to him.
As he handed them over, he reminded her that they were coming to buy big floats so that they could catch catfish.
âI brought Bridgette here to see a piece of history,â he said, snapping a photo of her next to a reel the size of her head. âIt was either that or a museum.â
Daniel George, who lives in the Bronx and fishes in the East and Hudson rivers, came to pick up a fishing rod, but he was drawn into all the talk about fish.
âSure, there are tackle shops in the Bronx, but I’d rather come here,â he said. âI can always get my questions answered. “
Mr. Ginandes had watched intently as a staff member skillfully dismantled his unreliable coil.
âI hope it cannot be fixed,â he admitted. âI would like to buy a new one.