I figured Glen Gajewski was spinning an apocryphal tale about a stranger dropping off the wooden folk-art “BAIT’’ sign on the south wall of Mik-Lurch Fishing Tackle Outlet.
It came with the responsibility of a legacy attached.
But Mike Starcevich vouched for the tale.
“A lady come in the shop and they had just closed a bait shop up north, in Wisconsin I think,’’ Starcevich said. “She said, `I want to give this sign on one condition: You don’t sell it and if you close you have pass it on.’
“We were offered $600, $800 for it, but we can’t sell it.’’
But Mik-Lurch closed New Year’s Eve afternoon.
There is nothing cutesy or woodsy about Mik-Lurch. It’s brick and mortar building on a busy stretch of Indianapolis just blocks north of the Borman Expressway in Hammond.
It was the eclectic people–customers and staff alike–that set Mik-Lurch apart.
Capt. Ralph Steiger started working there as a teen. He became the best multi-species captain on southern Lake Michigan. “Bobby B” Bergren started as a young teen, likely before he legally could. He is a comer with Shimano and will host Stray Casts Outdoor Cartoon Television, starting next month, with Pat Renwick and myself.
Gajewski worked virtually the entire run, Ed McCain and Starcevich opened the shop in the middle of 1999 (I thought they were nuts.). Gajewski is now guiding on the Indiana streams. There was “Mikey D’’ and Mark Radvonausky.
All sorts of characters and all classes–guys in high-end Ranger boats to those who counted every fathead minnow in the bucket–drifted through the shop.
Understand McCain learned his love of fishing from a whacked-out Vietnam vet. So maybe there is more tolerance than usual for the fringes of life, of fishing.
That was the soul of Mik-Lurch: the fishing. This wasn’t the corporate world, the corporate big box outdoors store, no, at Mik-Lurch whacked-out fishermen were welcomed, wanted and embraced.
If you wanted to know what the hot bite was for the week—whether perch at Gary Light, bluegill at Mazonia or ice fishing at Willow Slough–you could check what regulars like “Bluegill Bill” Young or “Tommy Z’’ Zeman were doing.
A host of factors did in the shop: Competition from Cabela’s a few blocks south and Bass Pro some exits east off I-94; the closing of Dean Mitchell plant (taking away the greatest winter fishing spot), the collapse of the perch fishery; and just changes in how much and how people fish.
“We were put there for a lot more than selling bait,’’ Starcevich said. “We took a lot of kids under our wings: Fathers who had passed away or were into drugs and alcohol. We are not just a bait shop.’’
The present tense hangs on.
As the final hours wound down, steelworker Lenny Lawrence added a final sale to his stuff when he bought the other big wooden sign, “SUPPORT UR LOCAL HOOKERS.’’
There are fewer and fewer.
As for the “BAIT’’ sign bequeathed to Mik-Lurch, Starcevich is not passing it on yet.
“If I see a perch run that comes in the summer, I may jump back in a little shop,’’ he said.