WALDPORT — Mike Gatens grew up in Waldport — Waldport High School class of 1993. Though he moved away for a while, he said, “I always missed it. My family has been here since the 1800s, settling in Beaver Creek. Grandpa Frank had an oyster farm.”
Gatens’ dad raised him to be an outdoorsman, hunting and fishing. “Fishing is in my genes,” he said.
It has long been his dream to open a bait shop. That dream became a reality just before Labor Day, when Shrimp Daddy’s Bait and Tackle at 385 NE Spencer St. in Waldport opened for business.
“We can fully outfit people to get out and catch their limits,” said Gatens. “Shrimp Daddy’s sells bait, wholesale and retail, for all fisheries,” as well as rods, reels, hooks, leads, jigs flashes and spinners, targeting the tackle needed in the local area. Customers come in to support their passion or to get advice and information, Gatens explained. Either way, Shrimp Daddy’s will oblige, helping people be successful at fishing, crabbing and clamming.
Someone will even snap a photo of you with your catch, Gatens said. Soon, he’d like to have a mural for pictures.
Larisa Benner was visiting from Portland when she stopped in on Saturday morning for supplies to fish for perch in Yachats — she declined to say exactly where. Gatens offered her some smaller hooks to tie to the bait loop, complimentary, as he packed up the lead weights, bait and hooks she purchased.
“My vision is to see this area thrive,” Gatens said. “We have fishing and beaches — family activities people love.”
While Shrimp Daddy’s missed the busy summer season, it opened in time to catch crab season and the summer salmon run. The business was welcomed. “The first day was off the hook,” Gatens said, the line of customers around the corner.
The Hawaiian shaved ice Shrimp Daddy’s sells was also a big hit, Gatens said. The tasty treat brings in people who don’t fish.
In addition to selling the bait and tackle, Shrimp Daddy’s makes and sells ice. “Because we make our ice, we can offer the best price,” Gatens said. Shrimp Daddy’s rents crab traps and cooks crab, this year filling the void left by the closure of Dock of the Bay.
Initially, it was difficult to acquire inventory because of the pandemic, Gatens said. When Harry’s Bait and Tackle on the Newport Bayfront closed, Gatens was able to purchase the inventory from retiring owner Randy Druba, picking up some of his clientele, too.
A wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service, Gatens was harvesting and selling bait wholesale as a side job. He intended to open the bait shop in four years, when he can retire from the forest service.
“But everything fell into place,” he said. His wife and kids help out, and he hired a part-time employee. He credits the help of friends and family for his success. Gatens expressed gratitude for the support of the community, the Waldport Chamber of Commerce and Oregon Coast Community College’s Small Business Management Program.
This year has been rough, Gatens acknowledged. He said he’s seen friends and family die and seen others lose jobs and businesses. But he was encouraged, in spite of the challenges of the pandemic and his demanding job. “I created this to bring people together,” he said.
Anticipating some lean times while the Port of Alsea’s new docks are under construction, Gatens looks forward to business from the steelhead run starting around Thanksgiving and a busy summer next year when the port construction is complete.
Headed into the Christmas season, Gatens said Shrimp Daddy’s offers gifts for the fisherman in your life, as well as Shrimp Daddy’s apparel.