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Then and Now with Klotz’s Bait & Tackle Shop

Klotz's Bait and Tackle Hellertown PA

With trout season having recently begun, Helen Behe stopped into Klotz’s Bait and Tackle Shop in Hellertown to see how things are going.

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Klotz Bait & Tackle Shop

Located at the end of Hess Avenue, not far from Saucon Creek, is a beloved destination for fishermen and fisherwoman from the Hellertown area and beyond. Family-owned and operated, Klotz’s Bait & Tackle Shop has been supplying the region’s anglers for over 40 years and is considered by many to be a local institution. (Credit: Helen Behe)

The image of the fisherman in literature has always attracted me. The Owl and the Pussycat have a bobber trailing in the wake of their boat. Wynken, Blynken and Nod drop their hooks between the moon and stars. Henry Higgins dreams of catching a whopper salmon in Beverly Cleary’s Henry and Ribsy. Now, with trout season having begun, I stop into Klotz’s Bait and Tackle Shop to see how things are going.

The shop is small, barely larger than a standard-sized living room. It’s packed floor-to-ceiling with all manner of fishing-related gear: anglers, fly fishing equipment, spinner, sinkers and both live and fake bait. I sit with 82-year-old Caroline Klotz as she recalls Klotz’s long history.

“The shop’s been open over 40 years now,” she says. “My son, Timothy Klotz, and his buddy, Tom Moran, started the business just selling worms back when they were in high school.” The two young entrepreneurs did a brisk business. So brisk, in fact, that it caught them by surprise on at least one occasion. Laughing about it now, Caroline tells the rest of the story.

“Tim said ‘Mom, could you put up a sign that says we’re out of worms?’ and I said ‘No, you can’t be out of worms near trout season!’ So I helped them pick more worms and me and my husband George got into the business.”

Klotz's Bait and Tackle Hellertown PA

Klotz’s Bait & Tackle Shop in Hellertown is a compact store stocked with all kinds of fishing supplies to help customers reel in a big catch. Visitors also get to enjoy conversations with owner Caroline Klotz, whose expertise from 40 years spent in the bait and tackle business is regarded by many as priceless. (Credit: Helen Behe)

Klotz’s Bait Shop houses more than equipment. Its four walls hold memories that Caroline shares with me as a blustery springtime breeze rattles the store.

One particular story centers on a young fisherman. “A little boy came in wearing light blue boots and a light blue raincoat, and he was with his dad and older brother. He was real excited and told
me ‘I’m goin fishing!’ So I told him to go catch a big fish. Later that day he came in, and he had caught a fish! We took a picture of it, because it was actually his first time fishing. His brother was standing in the corner looking disappointed, so I told him, ‘Today was your little brother’s day. Next time, it’ll be your day. You’re gonna get a catch, too.’”

Caroline should know, as she herself is a seasoned fisherwoman. The story of the blue-booted boy is one of her favorites, as it emphasizes how fishing creates such treasured memories for even the newest members of the community. “The children are most important,” she says with conviction. “Always bring the children with you.”

Fishing is more than a pastime and more than a sport. It is a way of life, a generational legacy.

Caroline illustrates this fact with the story of a young father who brought his newborn son to the store many years ago. “He told the baby, ‘When you’re ready, daddy’s going to take you fishing.’ A few years ago that man came in again, and I asked him, ‘Where’s your son now?’ Turned out the son was standing behind him—now six foot two!”

Though Caroline doesn’t have much spare time for fishing, she recalls past seasons with fondness. “The day before trout season is like Christmas for me,” Caroline explains as we sit in the shop, rods hanging above us and a tank humming in the corner. “I’ve always loved fishing. It’s very, very relaxing, and I’ve had some amazing times fishing with my family.” Most importantly, her bait shop keeps Caroline surrounded by fellow fishers who stop in for supplies or simply to see an old friend. “A few weeks ago, a customer stopped into my shop. I asked him what he needed and he says, ‘I ain’t buying anything, Mrs. Klotz, I just wanted to see how you were doing.’ You wouldn’t believe how wonderful people are, how kind they are.”

The bait and tackle shop, despite beginning as a simple worm dispensary, is now a cornerstone of the local fishing community. Fishers from Hellertown, Sellersville, Quakertown, Allentown and
other areas travel to Klotz’s to select their equipment, with shopping at Klotz’s being “a tradition” for many buyers. Like myself, one need not be a fisher to visit Klotz’s and enjoy the company and stories of Caroline. Now a great-grandmother, shop owner and beloved member of the fishing community, Caroline has endless stories and pieces of fishing advice. For tackle or for tales, stop by Klotz’s Bait and Tackle Shop at 216 Hess Ave., Hellertown. The store is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Wednesdays, when Caroline takes the day off, and Sundays, when she closes at 2 p.m.

Helen Behe is an MFA candidate at DeSales University, where she is studying through the program’s poetry track for a degree in creative writing and publishing. Aside from her studies, Helen enjoys gardening, boxing and rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles. She is a resident of Bethlehem. Read more of Helen’s Then & Now series here.

Photos by Helen Behe


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Helen Behe

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