Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Bait Shop Puts Community as Focus

Calling the recently-renovated Bait Shop building simply a business doesn’t quite tell the whole story. According to Arlyn Ackley, Jr., Vice Chairman, the Bait Shop will act as a community center where sportsmen and women can not only purchase the gear they need locally, but bond and catch up with those who share an interest in the outdoors.

Reestablished from a crumbling hunting shack, the Bait Shop now looks brand new, with refinished floors, beautiful window casings and a kitchen, where ice fishers can come in and warm up with a cup of coffee or a hot pizza during the winter months. The Bait Shop also features casino-donated coolers and freezers and minnow tanks. Although not quite up-and-running yet, it is just a matter of time before the Bait Shop is a feature of the Mole Lake community.

Arlyn, along with Leelyn VanZile and Carson Ackley, were the leaders of the project and spent the winter months building tables, digging corridors for the plumbing system and installing a massive tamarack log into the ceiling of the Bait Shop. Their commitment to the project allowed the building to develop into a structurally-sound and visually-pleasing property.

“The building is probably 75 years old,” Arlyn said. “We’ve actually had some people in the community who have lived here before, but there has never been any insulation or power. We had to put new plumbing in, run new pumps and wells, and install a power system.”

All of this work was completed by a small group of Tribal Members who were committed to the cause. Through financial assistance, the Casino and Sokaogon Finance, Inc. (SFI) were integral in getting the project off the ground. The Tribe also donated funds which allowed a public dock to be built on Mole Lake, just behind the Bait Shop.

“It’ll be a great place for kids to fish and swim. There is currently no public access on the lake for us to go fishing, because property is privately owned all around the lake, except for this lot and the beach,” Arlyn said. “The beach only has a boat landing though, so having the dock will be a great addition.”

The idea for the project came from a day on the lake ice fishing where Carson and Arlyn talked about how nice it would be to be able to get bait and something to eat right off the shore of the lake. The idea was then brought to a Tribal Council meeting where Arlyn pitched the idea to Chairman Chris McGeshick, who was very receptive to the concept.

“We have so many people around the area who have said how excited they are for the building to officially open,” Arlyn said. “It’ll be so much easier for them to come right here, rather than having to go into town or down south.”

Arlyn said many of bait shops in the Northern Wisconsin area are not open beyond the standard fishing dates. Because Tribal Members are allotted a longer season, it can be hard to find places to purchase necessary gear year-round.

“For us, it doesn’t pay to drive however long to get our necessary bait and gear,” Arlyn said. “With the Bait Shop, everyone can come here year-round and the money stays here in our community, which we can then put towards something else.”

Arlyn said the focus of the Bait Shop is not making money, but rather to provide services from an informational resource for fishers to a welding spot for spears. It is a goal to eventually provide products and services for hunters, maple syrup harvesting, and perhaps even act as a firearms trading resource. In addition, the Bait Shop will be running the Trading Post’s guide service out of the building.

“Once we get the shop up and running, we can sell our own rice and maple syrup that is picked and harvested right here, by us,” Ackley Jr. said. “Everyone will be able to come down and get the tools for all the jobs that are done around the community.”

Currently the building is selling fireworks and a few varieties of bait. Arlyn hopes everyone will be patient as the final touches are completed. He said that the Bait Shop will be up and running as soon as possible.

The Bait Shop is truly a building for the community, built by the community. Everyone who worked and continues to work on the project should be proud for all that has been accomplished. The dedication and commitment to the project is inspiring for all.