Stay safe, stay fishing: State moves up opening day

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Tom Grabowski, the owner of Tag’s Tackle Box in Plainville, said that opening day of each fishing season is like Christmas morning for some. While it is under special circumstances, Christmas has come early for those who have their poles ready for weeks.

While sports, schools, and shops remain closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, fishing is one of the few industries that has found a silver lining.

Last weekend, Connecticut Fish and Wildlife released a statement regarding an executive order from Gov. Ned Lamont, saying “We are very pleased to announce that Governor Ned Lamont has opened fishing in the Inland District, including trout fishing effective today (3/24/20).

All other regulations for fishing, including, but not limited to, licensing, stamps, methods, catch-and-release areas, creel limits and length limits shall remain in effect.” This has allowed fishing season to start more than two weeks ahead of schedule.

Both Grabowski and Peter Mangiaracina of Fishin’ Factory in Southington said that business during ice-fishing season was rough because Connecticut experienced a warmer winter than usual. However, their shops have been booming with customers this month, including veteran fishers and those who are simply looking for an activity during the pandemic.

“Business has been great,” Mangiaracina said. “People are coming in to get their licenses and picking up plenty of bait. We have noticed a lot of trout fishing and striped bass fishing. I believe when folks begin receiving their stimulus checks from the government, some are going to have extra money with nothing to spend it on. They can come in here for rods, reels, tackle, or whatever else they want.”

“I mean, what else can you do?” asked Grabowski. “I am usually closed on Mondays but I was open and I saw about five customers in the morning, so people are definitely itching to get back out there. Sales are going up on licenses. Everybody wants to do something right now, and fishing might be the answer for some. I remember even when we had a recession in 2007, people weren’t working but they would be fishing. This opens up the fishing industry because people can try something new.”

Grabowski said he services other tackle shops, including Cabellas. A majority of fishing gear purchases take place either online or at one of the large chains, like Cabellas, but Grabowski said he offers something that you can’t find from those other outlets.

“The difference is I know what I am talking about and I can help you here at the store,” Grabowski said. “I treat everyone with respect and that is where this industry is lacking. There are 40-year-olds who walk in here and never went fishing. Do you think you can go to Dicks or Cabellas and ask them how to tie a hook or how to put bait on? I care about everybody that walks in here. With that, people are comfortable walking in here.”

Tag’s Tackle specializes in ice fishing and saltwater fishing, but also carries equipment and bait for freshwater fishing. The store sells 11 different kinds of bait, and Grabowski said he has been running low because of the volume being sold.

The reason behind opening fishing season early was to eliminate the risk of big crowds on the originally scheduled opening day. Connecticut Fish and Wildlife said social distancing is still a must when out on the water.

Grabowski said fishing can serve as a benefit to a lot of people during a difficult time like the pandemic.

“When you go fishing, who is there really to interact with?” Grabowski asked. “Not only that, it is very therapeutic. You can have the worst week but if you go fishing, all those problems go away. I have been fishing since I was three-years-old, and the thing was no matter how bad things got, whether it was money or whatever, whenever you go fishing there is no problems.”