Barnacle Bill’s: Home of the Fishin’ Musician

Every town needs at least one bait and tackle shop.

This week’s Business in the Grove is Barnacle Bill's Bait & Tackle on Broadway. You may be asking yourself what a business that offers shiners and night crawlers is doing in a city without a body of water. The plot thickens when you find out that it has been open at the same location for 37 years, and business is very good.

On the day I visited , the small store was jumping with customers. So what is the lure? The number one reason is that recreational fishing is the quintessential outdoor experience, and one of the most popular nature-based activities for adults and families.

The second reason is owner Bill vanWulven, aka the Fishin’ Musician. I liked him right away—a renaissance character with plenty of great stories. This guy does more than cut bait.

In the music world, vanWulven is a professional keyboard player who has toured with Air Supply and Stevie Wonder.

In the fishing world, he is a renowned bass fisherman and was recently inducted into the San Diego Council of Bass Clubs Hall of Fame. This was for his charity work with children’s’ fishing programs, as well as his passion for bass fishing. The Fishin’ Musician has taught thousands of kids to fish—he also donates the rods and reels for the program, which the children get to keep.

My favorite tidbit that he shared with me was that he was Bill Walton’s boat captain for a number of years. I'd like to hear a few of those fish stories!

Barnacle Bill’s has a great selection of freshwater and saltwater tackle. It’s the only place in town to get your live bait starting at 5 a.m. on the weekend—or at any other time, for that matter. You will find interesting merchandise here, such as high-end rods and specialized fishing shoes. The store even carries a Fishin’ Musician line of fake worms. The shop also offers reel repair service and fishing line replacement.

This is the place to come to find out about fishing in San Diego. This is not Wal-Mart. Your questions will be answered intelligently, and good advice will be cheerfully offered.

VanWulven told me about a couple of upcoming events. One is a charity bass tournament that will be held at Lake Hodges in Escondido on June 11. Come on out and watch some of San Diego's finest anglers compete, including vanWulven himself. If you come, bring a donation of nonperishable goods, which will be given to the Crisis House in El Cajon.

The other event, sponsored by STAR/PAL, is at Lake Chollas on June 18. Five hundred kids will receive free rods, reels, lessons, and compete in a fishing derby.

Funny—you never know what you’re going to find when you walk into a bait shop.

Barnacle Bill’s Bait & Tackle is located at 7292 Broadway, on the corner of Citrus Street. The hours vary by the day of the week: Tuesday, 8 a.m.–3 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday, 5 a.m.–4 p.m.; Thursday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, 5 a.m.–3 p.m.; closed on Monday. You can call them at (619) 461-1214.


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