In the land of 10,000 lakes, fishing is considered an annual activity. And, with summer fishing in full swing around the Marshall area, local bait shops have been there, reeling in countless customers who can't wait get out on one of the many lakes.
"The night crawlers are the ticket this year," said Linda Burch, owner of Rainbow Bait, a Ruthton-based wholesale business.
Most of the vendors in southwest Minnesota, including a brand new one in Tracy, get their live bait from Rainbow Bait.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Carlson's Corner owner Jeff Carlson carefully scooped crappie minnows into a bucket Friday afternoon for a customer. Carlson's is one of many local bait vendors who have kept busy this summer providing live bait for avid anglers.
"I sell to all the bait shops in the area," Burch said. "My two sons (Kody and Kory) work for me. Kory also runs a self-serve bait shop outside of Tracy."
Rainbow Bait distributes small crappie minnows for pan fishing, Burch said, in addition to fathead minnows, sucker chubs, leeches and night crawlers, including dyed "green crawlers."
"All of the night crawlers come from Canada," Burch said. "The leeches come from northern Minnesota."
The suckers that Burch purchases are raised from hatcheries.
"We lease water and land from farmers and we trap them and bring them home," she said. "Then we sort them by two sizes and sell them."
Burch said she's amazed at how many times an individual night crawler is actually handled.
"They're picked in Canada off the ground," Burch said. "Then they package them and deliver them to me, and I deliver them to the bait shops. They hand them to the fishermen."
Eventually, the night crawler ends up on a hook at the end of a fisherman's line. And with good summer weather this year, it seems as though fishing has continued to be a popular form of entertainment around the area.
"We've been very busy, especially this week," said Jeff Carlson, who, along with wife Dee, owns Carlson's Corner. "There have been lots of people going fishing."
In addition to crappie minnows, chubs, fatheads, leeches and night crawlers, Carlson's Corner also sells all kinds of hard tackle and even fishing poles.
"A lot of people take their grandkids fishing," Carlson said. "So we sell a lot of Barbie fishing poles. We've also ran out of ice the last three days."
While Carlson's Corner is nearing its seventh year of business, others bait vendors are just beginning. To keep up with demands in the Tracy area, David Moua recently decided to begin selling bait alongside his Moua Wireless business in Tracy, which began in April as an expansion of his Marshall-based cell phone business.
"It's been going pretty well," said Blia Moua, who operates the Tracy business with daughter-in-law Suzanne Moua. "People were asking us if we had bait because this used to be a bait shop and gas station and they closed it."
Moua Wireless in Tracy, which is located next to the Red Rooster Restaurant, currently has crappie bait and also sells large fatheads. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment on Sunday.
"We just have two kinds right now," Blia Moua said. "We just got the bait coming in on July 1. So we'll have the live bait, tackle, water softener salt, LP gas and cell phones."
While the shop is still in the process of arranging inventory to go along with the live bait, the propane is hooked up and ready to go.
"Everything is 100 percent complete there," Moua said. "People were looking for LP so a lot of people are happy about that. Now they don't have to drive to Marshall to get it."
Moua Wireless is also hoping to be able to sell Minnesota fishing and hunting licenses in the future.
"We're waiting for the state of Minnesota DNR (Department of Natural Resources) office to move a machine," Moua said. "They don't have enough machines right now, but we should be able to get that."
The whole idea, the Mouas said, is to provide more convenience for their customers.
"It's a one-stop shop," Suzanne Moua said.