The page will be turned in another chapter in old-time Bonacker history soon, when Capt. Harvey Bennett, who has spent a good part of the past 70 years on the water catching fish and shellfish and in the field pursuing deer, turkey, ducks, and other fowl, closes his popular bait and tackle store in Amagansett.
But don’t say the word “retirement” when you see him. After more than 40 years of operating the Tackle Shop, he is altering course to serve customers in a different way, he said. Over the winter, Bennett plans to update his website to offer various tackle and wares, and he will continue to fix and repair rods and reels, as well as build custom rods from his house in Amagansett. And next year he will be ready to provide guide services for those interested in fishing from his boat or the beach or hunting game and fowl.
“I’m not walking away from my customers, who have been very loyal to me for such a long time,” he said from behind his counter last Thursday morning. “I kind of look at it as morphing into a remote tackle and guiding shop now.”
“I get a lot of inquiries from folks who want to learn how to read a beach for fish, how to drive properly and safely on an ocean beach, or just spend a morning fly fishing on Gardiner’s Bay. I also want to take customers to locations that are not just local state parks, but to areas that few have a chance to see and fish.”
Bennett added that “we also have some tremendous freshwater fishing here, which many completely overlook. Over all, I want to share my experience with others.”
Still, the closing of his store represents the sad passing of a simpler time, when numerous bait and tackle stores and livery stations adorned every town along the shorefront.
“It’s been a wild and fun ride that’s for sure,” reflected Bennett, a 13th-generation Bonacker whose ancestors have played a significant part in the fishing lore here going back over 300 years. “It’s a very challenging business to be in, but I have no regrets at all. The good times outweigh the bad by 50 to one. I’ve been fortunate to have met many great people from behind my counter. I’ve been very lucky in many ways.”
The Tackle Shop has been a fixture for locals, tourists, and even celebrities (the actress Naomi Watts dropped by a few weeks ago to buy some tackle). The musicians Jimmy Buffett and Paul McCartney were also regular patrons, as were Christopher Reeve and Liz Taylor long ago, Bennett said.
From big-name customers to a blue-collar surfcaster who fished all night along the shore at Ditch Plain, Bennett treated all his customers with the same down-to-earth manner, and he’s not one to hold back his opinions.
Want to hear a good fish story or two? Bennett is your guy.
And though he has a wry sense of humor, he also has a warm heart. In recent years, he collected and shipped countless boxes of clothing, shoes, school supplies, and athletic equipment to children in need in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s time to move in a different direction, which I’m very excited about,” he said. “I look forward to spending much more time fishing and hunting, and I will still be active fixing and ordering all types of tackle as people want. I will pick up and deliver anything people need. I’m not going away.”
Bennett, who is a licensed New York State guide and captain, said he hopes to close his shop by early December, “but I just don’t know right now.” He continues to run a sale on all items in the shop.
With more free time, he also plans to do more traveling. “I’m really looking forward to getting away and doing some fishing vacations and trips,” he said. “But with Covid still around, I’m not making any immediate plans yet.” In the meantime, he’ll follow his beloved Las Vegas Raiders football team, as well as tune in to any Nascar or Indy-style car race.
Bennett will retain his old phone number at the Tackle Shop at 631-324-7770. He can also be reached via email at [email protected] and at thetackleshop.org.
“Email is probably the best way to reach me, as I check it usually every 20 minutes,” he said.