With the Rusty Anchor Bait and Tackle shop in full operation on the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier, more anglers on the pier are welcome.
It’s a welcome sight as well for the city, following more than 18 months of troubles, ranging from storm damage to a closed restaurant and plenty of contentions.
Bait shop operator Rusty Roberts said business has been booming since opening Dec. 14. The bait shop was scheduled to run 24 hours a day, but Roberts temporarily curtailed the hours of operation.
He said he opens at 6:30 a.m. and remains open until around 11 p.m. — or as long as there are fishers on the pier. He plans to open the bait shop for 24-hour service when the Cast and Cage restaurant opens on the pier.
Restaurant operator Roland Pena — the contractual tenant of the city for the pier businesses — said he remains on target to open around Feb. 1. He is waiting on some kitchen equipment to be repaired, “but once the kitchen stuff is ready, it will go fast.”
In the meantime, and as planned, Pena is selling some menu items out of the store next to the bait shop. Smoked chicken and beef is selling well, according to Pena, at $6.50 a plate or a $4 sandwich.
“I said I would keep the cost of our food affordable, and I’m not looking to make a ton of money off of the food outside,” he said. “It’s just there for people wanting to fish and who want something to eat on the go. It’s all part of the pier experience we are trying to create.”
A lot of the interior is complete. Painting and the installation of the flooring are finished. Varnished wood tables are being prepared and the first 55-inch big screen TV has arrived.
“We’re really looking forward to getting it open,” said Pena.
Fun ‘N’ Sun Boat Tours, which is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, leaves the pier on its runs at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., and has become an unexpected partner to other pier businesses.
Tammy Murphy, owner of Fun ‘N’ Sun Boat Tours, said her business picked up dramatically when the bait shop opened.
“I’ve seen more people at the pier in the past week than I’ve seen in a really long time,” she said.
Business is good and so is the fishing, according to Roberts, who said black and red drum, flounder, pompano, Spanish mackerel and more are being reeled up from Sarasota Bay in better than average quantity and in better than average sizes.
Roberts has plenty of fresh bait and 20 poles for rent at any given time. He said at one time, he has had 17 poles rented and plans on having more in stock for when business gets busier after the restaurant opens.
Visitors to the pier are reminded that no license is needed to fish from the pier, as all fishing is covered under the city’s license.
“We are well aware that Bridge Street is the nerve center of Bradenton Beach,” said Pena. “That makes us aware of how important we need to be the overall Bridge Street experience. We are the face of the city and we want everyone to enjoy the Bridge Street and the pier experience.”