© 2023 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
NPR and KMUW are thoroughly committed to monitoring COVID-19 activity and its potential impact on your lives. We are continually updating kmuw.org with the latest news.

Go Fish: Local Bait Shop Reels In Customers Looking To Escape Isolation

Carla Eckels
Paul White looks at bait for a customer. The owner of P&P Seed & Bait in Wichita says he promoted fishing before COVID-19 and hopes to see families continue fishing.

Gov. Laura Kelly's plan to re-open the state begins on Monday. Following the lift of the stay-at-home order, Wichita businesses will begin to reopen in stages. It's been devastating for some businesses, but there are a few that have seen an increase in customers.

P&P Seed & Bait, a multi-purpose store in northeast Wichita, is one of them. Longtime fishermen — and those new to the game — are stepping outside and going fishing.

Credit Carla Eckels / KMUW
After buying bait from P& P Seed & Bait, Michelle Miller and her son Brandon Marrow head out to fish at K-96 Lake.

On a cloudy and breezy day — what's considered good "catching weather" for fishermen or anglers — Michelle Miller and her son Brandon Marrow walk out of a bait store.

The two like to fish at Cruiser K-96 Lake. Miller says it helps her to unwind.

"I've been working at home all day," Miller says. "Just want to sit down and relax a little bit, catch some fish."

Brandon Marrow says he loves to fish and has been doing so for nearly half his life. The 14-year-old says it's a relaxing hobby that's full of surprises. He slides off the Styrofoam top of his container to reveal his favorite bait: rosy red minnows.

"Those are pretty good bait on the bobber," he says. "Live bait always works good."

The shop, located near 21st and Canal Route, has been open for 34 years. Near the fishing poles, owner Paul White is looking over the bait swimming in tanks. There is a large grey quilted fish suspended overhead.

White scoops out three dozen pink minnows with a small net. He says he has been seeing a lot more traffic in the store these days.

"You know with people off from work from the virus, I've been swamped with customers all day long," White says. "Every day has been a Saturday since the governor told everybody to stay at home. So the only place they can go to get away is fishing."

Credit Hugo Phan / KMUW
The K-96 Fishing Lake is a popular fishing hole among many Wichitans.

White has a variety of bait for customers to suit different tastes, including redworms, nightcrawlers, various livers, shrimp, shad and stinkbait. He says it's hard to keep up with demand.

"A truck will come and I will run out the next day," White says. "Seems like no matter how much I buy, I'll have to go or send my son to get another load to serve customers."

Longtime fisherman Dan Turner stops by to pick up some bait, something that he's doing a lot of these days. He says his entire family loves to fish.

Credit Carla Eckels / KMUW
P&P Seed & Bait owner Paul White has seen an uptick in customers ever since the stay-at-home order was put in place.

Turner's home for now because he says he works a non-essential job. He fishes at various sites including K-DOT lakes nearly every day.

"Due to the coronavirus, I've been out fishing 100% times more than I had last year," Turner says. "It's made a big difference on how many fish are in my freezer this year."

Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism's Sport Fishing Education Coordinator David Breth says that license sales have risen between December and April.

"We have seen a 15% increase when comparing 2020 to 2019 with an even greater increase potential as May is typically our highest month for sales," Breth says.

White says he's seen customers who haven't bought a license in 10 years. He has noticed people are becoming restless.

"They are sick of staying home," White says. "They are pulling out their hair. Mama and daddy are home all day long, which that's not normal, you know, and the kids are there too. So their break is fishing."

Carla Eckels is director of cultural diversity and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.