A fish(y) story

Jim Brien in front of his new bait and tackle shop on Avenue S.

If it’s a fishing story you’ve got to tell or a contractor tale, take a load off and mosey on over to Jim Brien’s Bait & Tackle shop at 766 Avenue S in Seaside. Brien, who retired in January as Gearhart’s building official, opened his shop last week. The fishermen and the contractors he’s known and worked with for years are already dropping in.

“This is custom service for fishermen,” Brien said. He made it clear it’s not just a boy’s club; lady fishermen are very welcome. He’s selling his Lightning Strike Lures, which he’s been making as a hobby for decades. Most of them are so pretty that minus the hooks, they could pass for jewelry.

“I’ve been selling them at wholesale prices for awhile now, unofficially,” Brien said. The shop, which is cute as a button, is plentifully stocked with alluring lures, each one of them handmade by Jim. “There isn’t a lure here that I haven’t made.”

Brien has been a fisherman since he was 5 years old. He grew up casting off the Redondo Beach pier as a child in California. For most of his life he worked in some capacity as an enforcer of city ordinances. In 1985 he came out to Oregon from Las Vegas. He had a lumber business in Tualatin. He also worked as a foreman overseeing water storm lines.

“I did a stint as a police officer in the City of Tigard,” he said.

For at time he was the chief law officer of the city of Wilsonville.

In 1985, he became the full-time Building Official in Seaside and says he was the head of every building department at one point or another in Clatsop County. His last full-time position before retiring was Building Official for the City of Gearhart.

Customers for his lures are fishing for salmon and steelhead, Brien said.

The best fishing, he said, is behind the water treatment plant up to the Avenue G bridge.

“You have to walk the river find the fish,” he said. “You have to learn how to cast.” Fishermen, he said, are secretive. They don’t want anybody to know their best spots. “I’d just as soon lose the fish than let another fisherman know where I caught it,” Brien said with a laugh.

Lightning Strike Lures are immensely colorful. Why is that? Aren’t fish colorblind?

“People will tell you they can’t see colors,” Brien said. “But that’s not my experience.” He said they always seem to notice something red on the line. Which is probably why his “Shark Attack” lure is one of his most popular. It really does look like a spray of blood, but in an attractive way. He said Chinook salmon favor lures that are green, while coho tend to like pink.

“The #5 Hula Girl lure is one of my top sellers, too,” Brien said.

C’mon. Who or what wouldn’t be lured by a hula girl?

Brien acknowledges there is an art to fly-tying. And knowing what works best for a particular species of fish and knowing which lure is the right one to troll.

He also sells salmon and steelhead fish bait, which means night crawlers, salmon eggs, and sand shrimp. “I also sell crab bait,” he said, wrinkling his nose. Crab bait is stinky. Not his favorite smell.

Jim Brien’s Bait & Tackle is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The location is 766 Avenue S, just a short way east of Highway 101. It’ll be on your left. Super neat little building. You can’t miss it. The hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The phone is 503-738-2983.

“All fish stories are welcome,” he said.


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