Starting today we will be sharing bi-weekly episodes of our new podcast The My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles here on the website.
Our first-ever Chronicles podcast was recorded with none other than our friend Jeff Miller of Canal Bait & Tackle.
In this in-depth interview Jeff shares with us the history and story behind Canal Bait - which is located less than one half mile from the banks of the legendary Cape Cod Canal.
Our mission with the new Chronicles podcast is to share the magic of Cape Cod through through interviews with local experts and members of the Cape Cod fishing community.
Each Chronicles episode will last around 25 minutes, and will include a written transcription of the podcast for people who prefer to read instead of listen. You may click the toggle below to open the transcription for our interview with Jeff.
Click here to read the Podcast Transcription
00:00:01 Announcer - Chantal: Welcome to the My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles in My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles podcast profiles, impactful members of our fishing community and beyond. Now here's your host Kevin Collins.
00:00:18 Host - Kevin: Hello and welcome to the first-ever edition of the My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles podcast here on myfishingcapecod.com this is Kevin Collins, the usual host of the My Fishing Cape Cod podcast which we have every week here on the website during the course of the spring, summer and early fall. We’re going to try something a little bit different here in the 2019 podcast season, we're going to try to publish one of these, My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles podcast, every few weeks here up on the site. They're going to be for public consumption everybody can listen to them and enjoy them as we go through the summer and we're going to focus the podcasts on people that have made an impactful contribution to not just the fishing community here on Cape Cod, but the community in general.
You never know who could pop up here on the show so you want to make sure you give us a listen as we publish these throughout the course of the season. Now without further ado, I want to welcome in our first ever guest here and that is none other than Jeff Miller of Canal Bait and Tackle. And for those of you that listened to the MFCC podcast every week, you're very familiar with Jeff. But for those of you who are uninitiated, Jeff Miller runs Canal Bait and Tackle rate down along the banks of the Cape Cod Canal on cranberry highway, they can be found at canalbaitandtackle.com as well.
And Jeff is just a wealth of information, we have him on the podcast every week to give a fishing report in and for any of you listening to the sound of my voice that have spent any time in Canal Bait and Tackle, you know Jeff is just kind of a great resource in this region for fishing the Canal, no matter what time of year you want to give it a stab. So Jeff, welcome to the first edition of the My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles, how are you today?
00:02:01 Guest - Jeff: I'm doing great. How are you?
00:02:02 Kevin: I'm doing very well. Let's just introduce you to the audience, first of all, talk a little bit about your involvement with Canal Bait and Tackle when you started working there.
00:02:12 Jeff: Yeah, I've been around in the fishing game since I was like 4 years old because of my father, he used to work at a place called Roy's Bait and Tackle way back when. And he worked there for a couple of years and then he decided to open Canal Bait and Tackle, buy it off of an old man he used to have those being tackled right down the street back in like 1995. And then yeah, my father bought that and then he ran that, I don't know, for a couple of years heavy and then I was working with him probably when I was eight years old. So I've been in the business and helping out, like running the register I didn't like that, but you know, just being like a little stock boy, stuff like that since I was yeah, around 8.
00:02:58 Kevin: As currently exists today Canal Baits and Tackle open its doors in 1996 is that correct?
00:03:04 Jeff: Yeah, that was like the very first year I mean he bought it like right in the middle of the season of 1995 so I mean he still had it, but yeah, very grand opening if you will. Yeah. 1996
00:03:14 Kevin: So you guys are coming up on 25 years almost of service to this region in terms of supplying Bait and Tackle and just expertise for folks looking to fish, that's pretty amazing. Do you ever think about that?
00:03:27 Jeff: That means I’m old and I don't like that, but yeah, we've been in this kind of game for a long time. I mean, my father, he started fishing when he was 10 years old, frustration hold the guy now he started fishing the canal with my grandfather. But yeah, it's been up well over 25 years. Easy.
00:03:46 Kevin: So fishing ran in the family for your dad and he picked it up from your grandpa and then you picked it up from your dad, it's been a generational thing in the Miller family. Did you know as a little 8, 9, 10 year old kid working, stocking shelves that this is what you wanted to do?
00:04:01 Jeff: Not really. I mean you started out, it was fun. It's always been a blast, especially during the summer, but no, when I was going to my teenage years, okay, let's thinking about becoming a fed, working with my uncle and stuff for immigration costumes but that didn't work out and so yeah, that was the story of a sense. It's an absolute blast and it's awesome because I don't have a boss that's the best part about it.
00:04:29 Kevin: Yeah. There's certainly something to be said for being your own boss. So let's go back Jeff, as you're growing up, you're working at the shop, you're fishing with your dad or your grandpa. What passion did you have in terms of fishing? Did you like surf casting? Did you like fishing from the boat or was it an instant attraction to the canal that kind of got you going?
00:04:50 Jeff: Yeah, surf Gaston. It's always been a blast even freshwater, it doesn't matter standing by the water's edge cares is always good as therapeutic. I mean that really started it but yeah, once I started fishing the canal heavy with my dad and then start official with guys like Stan kosher and all those guys, then you really start learning so much more. It's not just throw in a piece of bait out you'll learn how to jag, you learn how to plug, cast all this other stuff. Yeah. It's been really cool.
00:05:24 Kevin: And so as you're growing up fishing, Jeff, were you one of those guys kind of skipping out of school early to go fishing or playing hooky to go fishing?
00:05:32 Jeff: Yeah, all the time. They'll say I had the best excuse but yeah, I mean it was always easy to do that, especially if you had to go and get bait or anything like that.
00:05:43 Kevin: And Jeff, how did you meet Ryan and where did he fit into you growing up? I know you guys have known each other for quite a few years now.
00:05:52 Jeff: I think around high school yeah. I mean he's been coming in with Jake, I don't know how long it's been a long time.
00:05:59 Kevin: Yeah. You guys have known each other probably going on 20 years or so. I'd say if I had to guess
00:06:04 Jeff: Around there yeah, easy.
00:06:06 Kevin: And with him kind of following a similar path with his love of fishing and him finding a way to find the time and the willpower and the energy to create My Fishing Cape Cod. It's pretty remarkable how you guys have both followed your passion for fishing and been able to kind of make that your life calling, if you will. You guys have followed very similar paths, both kind of following your dream to stay involved in fishing?
00:06:35 Jeff: Yeah, I mean once you get really addicted to it, you never want to leave, that's for sure. Especially, not just fishing the canal, but fishing on boats, fishing on the beach, you know? Yeah, it gets in your blood real quick, I think I met Ryan at the old shop, I think it was the very first time we both in high school and he just loved fishing. So I just kind of gave him some pointers then he'd give me pointers and that's it. That's how the friendship started pretty much all that again.
00:07:00 Kevin: Yeah, it's pretty much how a lot of friendships start well you know when you're talking about fishing is just kind of sharing resources and information and helping each other catch fish.
00:07:09 Jeff: Yeah. I mean efficient is kind of like an international language that's the best way to put it. You get guys from all over the world, they've got guys from Europe, South Africa, and all the Caribbean to come up here. They fish, we talk the same lingo, the same way about fishing, you know, it is a true passion.
00:07:27 Kevin: So as we follow the history, Jeff of Canal Bait and Tackle, you're getting older now you're in high school or maybe you've just graduated high school. When did you really take this larger role on, that you now have where you're just kind of the main face behind the counter at Canal Bait and Tackle?
00:07:47 Jeff: Probably a couple of years after college I'd say. Yeah, that'd be a safe bet on that.
00:07:53 Kevin: So now you're at a college and you're taking a larger role at Canal Bait and Tackle and you're behind the counter and you're helping run the business. Can you talk a little bit about how you have helped grow the business, especially with the internet boom and helping maintain the website, get that up and running? Because I know you guys do a bang up business online and you've now expanded into eBay and other marketplaces online.
00:08:19 Jeff: Yeah, that was pretty much the big thing. One of my friends that I fished he did a lot of like small tune efficient and then fishing the canal is Scott. Scott unfortunately, he's passed away since, but he was really good with e-commerce and he kind of just taught me the basics, how to set up a website, how to do this, how to ship stuff. He kind of showed me the ropes and yeah, misunderstand. I took over that and then pro promoting the business, showing people how to fish the canal, how to serve cash, not to go out in the boat, that has a lot to do with his special social media, stuff like that. Yeah. That's kind of what I really took over because my father's not the best in the computer. I don't think he knows how to log into a computer but yeah, that's pretty much how I started heavy in the business, especially after college.
00:09:14 Kevin: Yeah, it's pretty amazing. You know, your dad and trusting you to help grow that part of the business as we entered into a new century in the internet bubble really started to take off. It's pretty awesome how he got the business up and running, opened the doors and developed a really nice network of customers and friends down here. And then you came along, graduated from college and help take the business to another level and another 15 years. Now here we are with Canal Bait and Tackle.com doing so well and you expanding your online business servicing, not just Cape Cod, New England in the United States of America, but as you and I have talked about so many times, you're shipping stuff all over the world for folks fishing for all different species of fish, but wanting your gear. That's just got to be a pretty amazing feeling when you look at it.
00:10:05 Jeff: Yeah. Especially when we started making our own lowers as you know, especially a lot of the stick baits and the new plugs that were coming out with, I mean not just because of Ryan going down to Costa Rica, but you've got guys from all around Mexico, Guam, Palau, Hawaii, all those guys. They're watching these videos, they're seeing Ryan, and they’re seeing all these other guys catch fish on these different types of Laura's, then they contact me through email, we're talking and they kind of giving me some pointers, I'm giving them pointers It's really is cool. Especially, I never thought, no a remote Island in the Pacific, like in new Palau those guys who know, emailing me wanting all the lures that we use in the canal7 it is strange, but it's kind of amazing at the same time.
00:10:53 Kevin: Yeah. So we talk about all the different countries that reach out to you, Jeff, and are asking, not just to be able to order gear, but they ask for advice and just kind of trade information on the culture and the way we fish versus the way they fish. It kind of leads me into my next question and it's going to be a tough one. You might need to think about it for a sec, but in all your years behind the counter at the bait shop or just having, you know, a coffee or a beer at a local restaurant. I wanted to ask you for the best fish story or stories that you've come across and it doesn't necessarily have to be from a local guy, it could be, you know, you trading emails with one of these folks in a different country.
00:11:37 Jeff: The best ones are like the biggest superstition of all time don't bring a banana on the boat that was always a good one. One guy, his name is Jeff too, he went out in his boat and the trolling around like things parking lot, and Ryan does the same thing. We're out there trolling with tube and worm and vodka spoons and they're efficient for three, four hours and catch anything early in the morning. And then they, you know, they're going to have lunch and then he realizes one of the guys who took out on the boat has a banana, so he instantly takes the banana out of the kids and throws him back in the water and he's like, don't ever bring a banana on a boat it's bad luck. So the troll around him and caught anything after lunch, trolling around probably another like three, four hours and catch one thing and the guy said, you know what, it's the banana.
You really screwed up the fishing trip and he's like real up the lines where they even and you know in front of Sandy neck there's a vast area and he's railing up the line and on his bunker spoon is the same banana that the kid threw out of the boat because of the bad luck. I mean that right there that's one of the most insane stories I've ever heard in my life. 10 hours of trolling and the last time you reel up your line, you touched the banana you threw out. That's a good one.
00:12:56 Kevin: The unfortunate part about that superstition to Jeff is that bananas are such an easy food to eat on boats. When you think about it.
00:13:03 Jeff: Yeah I know it's a great thing to eat. I don't know if there's something behind that superstition, especially after I heard that story
00:13:10 Kevin: Is there in their own little like a biodegradable shell. If your hands are all gunky and cut up from it's really unfortunate if you asked me that bananas are kind of blacklisted on boats all over the world.
00:13:22 Jeff: That's true. But it is. I don't know. There's something behind that. It's got to be that's a good boat story. I mean in the canal you hit all of this, the stories of guys setting up rods in the rocks and you know, going back in the backswing because they see the bass break catching their own rod and throw it into the canal. I've seen that twice that's been pretty funny and both times the guy was able to reel the rod back in. You know what I mean? So that was pretty intense seeing that. Does that mean throwing like $1,000 set up into the canal and being able to reel it back in? It's pretty impressive.
00:13:59: Kevin: As long as it's not your rod being thrown into the canal that's got to be pretty funny to witness.
Jeff: That's true.
00:14:05 Kevin: Talk a little bit more about, you know, the Canal Bait and Tackle community that you have your network, the regulars that come into the shop. I know a lot of them are members of My Fishing Cape Cod as well, It's all just kind of like one big community. Talk a little bit about the vibe in the store and just kind of the family atmosphere that you guys have down there that I've witnessed at Canal Bait and Tackle.
00:14:29: Jeff: Yeah. I mean there's just over the year’s just people coming in, they have a love for fishing It's just a, it's kind of natural just out of nowhere, you know, he started like collecting with people and started talking about different things. Start talking about their, you know, their lives, their work, their wives, stuff like that, that's the beauty of it and yeah, it's just over time it just happens. Yeah. I mean the family has grown ginormous now. Insane. You get to meet people from all over Cape Cod, all over the East coast. It's been really cool It's one of the best things about, especially about this business is so much more positive than there is negative. And that's when Ryan when he's first started doing my fishing Cape Cod and I'm like, this is going to be outstanding because Ryan is so positive, you're positive you give that good vibe.
That's the whole point of it you want to educate and help each other then also them educate you. You build a good community of people that's the beauty of it. You know, it's not like some web pages talking about fishing, they just bashing each other it's constantly negativity and talking crap that just gets old fast. But Cape Cod, that community it helped build our stores community and vice versa it's a good thing.
00:15:48 Kevin: Yeah. They kind of go hand in hand My Fishing Cape Cod and Canal Bait and Tackle and I think a lot of the credit for that, Jeff goes back to you and Ryan just having that, that friendship and that relationship, you know, starting pretty young and probably going on 20 years of friendship and fishing and working together and collaborate. You share information and you help each other as much as possible.
00:16:11 Jeff: Oh yeah it’s outstanding, it’s one of the best things in the world.
00:16:13 Kevin: So you talked a little bit about what the pros are. There are plenty of times Jeff, where on a Friday night you're firing up the grill and people that come in and are looking to buy, whether it's a setup or just buy some frozen mackerel or just kind of hang out with you. You know, you're throwing burgers and dogs on the grill, slinging them out to people it's just such a cool vibe and that's one of the huge pros of you being able to run your own business. I'm sure there are some challenges, I'm sure there are days that are harder than others, whether it's just the volume of online orders or whatever it may be. Talk a little bit about the challenges that you face running your own business, being your own boss.
00:16:57 Jeff: I mean just got for a lot of time and that's the biggest thing you got to put in a lot of time and that's the biggest pet peeve I would say. I mean, you might run into a few people that's you just don't collect, but you can't make everyone happy you just got to remember that. But, yeah, the biggest thing is getting the placed, stocked up ready because that's the worst feeling in the world when people come in and go, Hey man, do you have this lore? And I say, I don't have it. That really kind of pisses me off and I don't have it but I mean some of the lore makers, they don't make enough, unfortunately, and sometimes that's one of the things that drives me nuts is that I don't have it. You know what I mean? That's why I've put in so much time trying to have it, make sure that I have enough so I don't disappoint anyone.
00:17:43: Kevin: Yeah, you can only control the controllable if there's not a product to order or this none to be delivered to the shop you can't expect you to have it in stock, but you do a great job. I think of the anticipating Jeff, what people are going to need in volume and I think one of the things that we do pretty well on our regular podcast, our weekly, My Fishing Cape Cod podcast, is we kind of give updates on what's stocked heavy versus what's kind of running thin so that folks that are out there on the website are listening to the podcast, they kind of know where they're at and where your stock's at.
00:18:17 Jeff: Yeah. That's the beauty of the podcast too so I don't, you know, people come in and have an expectation going, hey, do you have any white magic swimmers? It's kind of like known that yeah, you're not going to find them. But this year I stocked up gigantic on them and had a lot of stuff like that. Especially Savage sand deals so we don't run out of them, that's the biggest thing.
00:18:38: Kevin: Yeah. And that just comes with experience, Jeff, all these years, 25 plus years of experience, you know what they're going to need and kind of, you can ballpark guess when they're going to come in heavy in need it. Jeff, one other thing I want you to touch on is I've been in the shop multiple times as well and met your father, met your mother, very much a family run business. Talk a little bit about what that's like now that you're an older guy versus when you were 8 years old stocking the shelves.
00:19:06 Jeff: It's pretty cool. I mean, my mother, she was a registered nurse for, I mean like 38 years, so she was always working night shifts so she was constantly working. She retired though, last year so she's going to be around a little bit more than usual. So that's, I mean that's pretty cool I get to see my mom a little bit more than I used to because yeah, I was born in Falmouth. She started in Falmouth and then she started working at all the different hospitals and stuff like that so I mean that's always a big thing. My father's here, I mean, every morning, well a couple of mornings he takes off, I'll cover a shift but yeah, I mean it's really cool and you get to work with your parents and yeah, you do but heads, but whatever, that's, you know, small stuff.
00:19:55: Kevin: I think it's so unique and so cool that you're in this family unit, Jeff with you, your mom and your dad. And now at this stage of the game where Canal Bait and Tackle is in 2019, you know, depending on the day you walk in, you could have all three members of your family mulling around the shop at once and it's a great local business success story.
00:20:17: Jeff: Oh yeah. Plus now I've got my own lady, she works here now too. She helps out a bit, that's always a good one.
00:20:24: Kevin: Yeah, 2019 has been a big year for Jeff Miller. Not only Shepherd and Canal Bait and Tackle and steering the ship there, but you've got married. So I want to congratulate you on that and I understand you've also become a homeowner, so things are kind of changing very quickly for you.
00:20:24: Jeff: Oh yeah, I got that I finally moved on Cape Cod, I was born here now I'm finally back living in Plymouth, as you know, renting anywhere is insane but no it's a good feeling to actually have a house.
00:20:55: Kevin: It's pretty much paradise to me, but the only thing that I have to plan is my trip over to see you because you're just on the wrong side of the bridge for me.
00:21:04 Jeff: That’s true.
00:21:05 Kevin: So when it gets to this time a year, when I go over and make my trips over to see you, to buy supplies and or just to come over and shoot the breeze, which I like to do and bring my dog over, that's the only downfall for me about living in Monument as opposed to moving down towards Sandwich or one of those other towns just over the bridge.
00:21:26: Jeff: Yeah, I know the Cape isn't easy. It's not easy going over that bridge every day that's really the toughest part.
00:21:33: Kevin: I find a lot of people, once they move over the bridge, Jeff, you know, there's no real reason to come back you've got everything you need over that bridge is certainly grocery stores, plenty of liquor stores, plenty of beaches so once you're over there, you're over there so who knows? Maybe Jeff, now that you've crossed back over the bridge, you know you're home now, you'll never come back on the other side.
00:21:56: Jeff: No, I still go to the waterfront pulling the waterfront, oh yeah. That's about it though.
00:22:02: Kevin: So as we wrap up our conversation, that's what I wanted to ask you about. When you do have a little bit of downtime, which is very rare, what do you like to do to just kind of get away from it all to decompress a little bit?
00:22:15: Jeff: I usually try to go down the boardwalk beach, you know, chill out there, Sunday nights I fish the canal because I close up a little early on Sunday night I usually head down, you know, it's good7 It's therapeutic. But yeah, I mean I kind of know the deal I know the obligation got to be here, so I'm not really worried about it too much, I mean when I was younger, I used to be a little upset when people would be like, Hey, we're going out to Sandy Neck on labor day weekend you want to come out. It's like, cant, I got to work? I wish I can go and party when you guys officially on the beach with the cant. But yeah, I mean you just kind of get used to it. Plus, yeah, I love going up to Plymouth waterfront around there or you see me at Fisherman's View. I'll go there too.
00:22:56: Kevin: Yeah, there's not many better places to kind of chill out, grab something to eat and grab something cold to drink than Fishermen's View. I mean that what they've done down there is just tremendous and it's an awesome spot to just kind of decompress. The last question I have for you, Jeff, on today's first addition to the My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles is as Canal Bait and Tackle moves toward their 25th anniversary and beyond, Jeff, as you continue to help steer the ship with your dad and your mom and continue to grow the business, what are your hopes and dreams for the business as you move into the future?
00:23:33: Jeff: Biggest thing, taking a lot of my ideas of different types of lores and expanding that, that's my biggest thing right now. Especially like topwater plugs, stuff like that, there's a lot of old designs back in like the fifties, sixties that Stan Kooser and Stan Gibbs and all those guys helped create. I kind of want to bring them back, you know, and kind of tweaking what the new terminal faculty you have now, different types of finish those guys back then, they just took a piece of wood and painted it and they just ran with it. They came up with different designs, you know, those Stan Gibbs himself the guy's a legend. Ridiculous amount of designs he came up with, you know, I wouldn't mind bringing back a few of them and kind of tweak them, you know make them so that it's still relevant because there's a lot of stuff that those guys made that people totally forgot about and they have no clue, well yeah, I would like to bring them back.
00:24:32: Kevin: Well Jeff, I want to thank you for spending so much time with me on this first edition of the My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles. This is a completely new podcast. This is the first episode and I couldn't have asked for a better first guest. I hope it was enjoyable and easy for you to tape as well. Just kind of giving us some background on not just you, but the history of your family and the business that is Canal Bait and Tackle. We're going to move on this year and do a bunch of these podcasts, hopefully with a wide variety of people that contribute to, you know, the history of fishing on Cape Cod. So I hope folks find these enjoyable and Jeff, I just want to thank you so much for sharing so much of your time with us and opening up and telling us all about the history of Canal Bait.
00:25:17: Jeff: Yeah, no problem, this is easy. This is like you and me talking at the store on a Friday night, that same thing. Yeah, it's a blast.
00:25:25: Kevin: Thanks to Jeff Miller from Canal Bait and Tackle for being the first-ever guest on the My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles podcast. I hope all of you, the listeners enjoy this podcast as much as I enjoy taping it. We're going to do our best throughout the course of the summer to publish one of these, My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles podcast every two weeks, so be sure to keep an eye out on the website and for email blast when these podcasts are published. Once again, thanks so much for listening. This is your host, Kevin Collins signing off on the first-ever edition of the My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles podcast. Until we talk again tight lines and take care.
00:26:02 Chantal: Thanks for listening to the My Fishing Cape Cod Chronicles podcast. From all of us here at My Fishing Cape Cod tight lines and take care.
00:26:13 Announcer: For the latest information on how to fish the Cape. Be sure to check out myfishingcapecod.com. Become a member today and receive your first month with just $1. Join us as a My Fishing Cape Cod member.
Episodes of the Chronicles can also be listened to on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts!