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Fishing - Lines up: time to put away the tackle

Winter offers anglers time to reflect on another summer on the water and get gear ready for next year

Winter offers anglers time to reflect on another summer on the water and get gear ready for next year

Some worry about the need for more room for their expanding collection of classic boats, classic cars or whatever, while the rest of us often have a slightly different problem: where to put all the fishing tackle we acquire over time.

We always seem to add new items, stored on the boat in season, but where do you put it after the season is over — especially if you live in a home with limited space?

Many of today’s boomer anglers have moved from houses to condos, but some boat owners live in apartments. So where do you keep all the “must-have” fishing gear?

Nearly 20 years ago I bought a 6-foot-by-3-foot storage cabinet from Business Furniture in Milwaukee, a mail order outfit. The cabinet itself was manufactured by Lee Metal Products in Littlestown, Pa.

It’s decorative enough to occupy space above the basement, and is built to industrial grade specs, meaning the shelves are sturdy enough to support the likes of sinkers for bottom fishing and cod jigs for trips up to the Gulf of Maine. The shelves can also be rearranged to take bigger items if needed, like electronics removed from a winterized boat. The top of the cabinet is heavy enough to store all manner of boxes should the better half see the value of such after Christmas clean-up.

When closed, the cabinet looks neat and trim, the stuff stored away until needed, yet handy if on a snowy night you feel the need to get out the gear and tie up new rigs or put new hooks on the workhorse popper that your brother-in-law used to catch his 14-pound bluefish. These types of projects help keep a Northeast angler in touch with fishing and boating during the long winters.

All manner of similar home cabinets are for sale in town or through the mail, but some don’t past the eye test (meaning suitable only in the cellar, something you may or may not have when living in a condo).

Rods, rods and more rods — we all seem to draw the line at the last purchase only to see something at a winter tackle show we can’t live without. In a condo you can store these up against a far wall, out of the way, with rod holders that screw into a wall, holding the rods flush against it. The limiting factor is the height of your ceiling.

Tackle shops and mail order shops offer all manner of rod holders, from those that can be wheeled around to finely finished ones right at home in an exclusive, woodland retreat. You can also roam the aisles at boat and fishing shows, checking out other prospects for rod storage in limited living quarters, getting a day out of the house, probably a chance to talk shop with like-minded souls from all over your region. If you can, time your trip on a weekday to avoid crowds on the weekend, when vendors are busier and have less time for chatting.

Fishing tackle comes in all sizes; many of the items small and prone to getting underfoot, like plastic shads, fluke rigs or rig components. The latter can be first tied up, a great evening project when the snow is coming down horizontally, then placed in small plastic bags. These bags are for sale in many tackle catalogs or try Century Plastics in Brea, Calif. They make sturdy vinyl bags that hold one or two fluke rigs with ease, then snapped shut, keep out most moisture when stored under or in front of a center console or up in your cuddy cabin.

After tying enough rigs, saving money at the same time over the manufactured kind, place them in some type of plastic box available in uncountable configurations at the local Big Box home or stationery supply stores.

I know many anglers that tote these boxes back and forth to the boat during the season, bringing them home when they need to replenish rigs after their guests for last Saturday lost more than you care to count to the rocky bottom, chasing blackfish or porgy. Just make sure you have the boxes labeled so you take the right one with you, not discovering 50-plus miles from the marina that you brought fluke rigs instead of blackfish.

Plastic shads are always in demand because they catch fish, not only stripers hanging around that rocky point not far from the dock, but also blues that delight in chopping them in two, often just behind the hook.

During the layoff, you can buy shads in bulk at shows, storing them in plastic bags, bringing them to the boat as needed. If you buy in bulk, you save considerable money over spot purchases during the fishing season.

Some anglers like to buy just the shad bodies along with the lead heads separately then put them together, another winter project. Done this way, you save more money — not to mention providing another evening connected to fishing, not listening to the weather guy or girl tell how cold it will get that night.

If you’re bewildered by all the color of shads on the market or at some booths during the shows, get some 4-inch white ones with half-ounce heads. They will catch fish casting along the shore in western Long Island Sound or bass a mile offshore of Asbury Park during the fall migration.

Tackle toting eases the mind during the bleak time when the nearest boat is on the cover of a magazine. Putting tackle in its winter place also gets one ready for the spring, the great time when the cabinet begins to empty after you catch the first fish of 2008.

Tim Coleman has been fishing New England waters for more than 30 years. He was managing editor of The Fisherman magazine’s New England edition until 2001, and is now a freelance writer based in Rhode Island.