Bait House Banter
Photo/Text by Donna Malloy
The mermaid doors have become a popular "photo op" at the Bait House for Clearwater City Marina strollers.
If someone walked into your home and said: “It smells like fish in here,” it would not be considered a compliment. But in the case of the old “Bait House” on Clearwater Beach, it is. According to employee Bill Duffy, that’s only one of many funny comments visitors say when they enter the Bait House for the first time.
Live pin fish and shrimp are the culprits and also the main attractions. Fresh salt water is constantly being pumped through the tanks from Mandalay Channel below. A hole in the floor where the plumbing has been installed provides a constant flow of air in this non-air conditioned building, an extra unexpected beneÅfit in 90+ degree weather.
The Bait House has weathered many a tropical storm and hurricane. Nestled at the east end of the Clearwater City Marina between the Starlite Majesty and the extension of the Pinellas Trail, the Bait House has been home to anglers for over 34 years.
At the end of a long day of boating, locals and marina guests gather at the Bait House, cooling off with a beer and sharing stories about the “big one” that got away. The lucky fisherman can have his catch of the day cooked that evening at Crabby Bills. “If you catch ‘em, we’ll cook ‘em” is Crabby Bill’s mantra and they’re conveniently located at the west end of the Clearwater City Marina.
Only minutes from Clearwater Harbor, the Bait House is an easy “stop and go” for transient boaters who pull in for ice, live bait, beer and assorted cold beverages on their way to the Gulf of Mexico. The Bait House boat dock has six wet slips and can accommodate one 30’ tie-along.
For twenty dollars, dad can buy a Mity Might rod for his son or daughter and the young anglers can “learn their craft” at the Bait House dock. If at first they don’t succeed, there’s always ice cream inside to keep them happy.
In recent years, the mermaid doors have become a local attraction and provide a popular “photo op” for beach weddings. The doors were painted by Jennifer Bowen.
According to employee Sharon Tate “Bait House” logo shirts and postcards are very popular items with tourists and locals alike.
“We’re open seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year” boasts employee “Big Al” Cole. According to Cole, the Bait House hours are: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For further information on local fishing, types of rods and reels, live or frozen bait, etc., call the Bait House at (727) 446-8134.
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