On the corner of Highways 34 and 219 in the little village of Silva, Mo., you will find a block and brick building with a hand-painted sign over the front door that says “Little Bear Claws Trading Post & Live Bait Shop.”

The bait shop is conveniently located off Highway 67 between Clearwater and Wappapello lakes with the St. François River close-by.  

As you enter the building you begin to question if this is the right place. Your eyes wander over an assortment of items, which includes a Magic Chef cookstove, display cases containing Native American artifacts and pottery, a table that holds books, and an assortment of kitchenware.

You will find cast iron skillets, crosscut saws, a dart board and artwork hanging on the walls. Scattered throughout all of that you can find a few fishing rods, a display of some locally hand-tied jigs, a wall display of terminal tackle and some minnow buckets stacked up in the corner.

Where is the live bait?

Mike and Dee Kaufman are the owners of Little Bear Claws Trading Post & Live Bait Shop. Dee had the idea of opening a general store-type business so she could have a place to share her collection of antiques, Native American art, and collectibles.

Mike started the bait shop out of necessity. So in June of 2015, Little Bear Claws Trading Post & Live Bait Shop became a reality.

Beforehand, when Mike wanted to go fishing, he had to go to a pet store to buy goldfish for bait, which was inconvenient and expensive. He thought that there had to be a better way.

He obtained some minnow holding tanks and aerators, applied for and received a Missouri bait dealers license, and became an authorized dealer.

Now that he has minnows and other live bait readily at hand, his opportunity to go fishing has been limited. He needs to be accessible for his customers when they stop in to go fishing.

Mike can be found in or around the bait shop from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Owning a small business, especially a bait shop, is a full-time commitment to both the customers and to the products. It is a daily task to keep the minnow tanks clean with fresh water and oxygen, feed the minnows and other live baits, and constantly check to make sure they are alive and well.

Because of Mike’s dedication to his customers that they are purchasing live and healthy bait, he has built a special room in which he can control the temperature and humidity. Here you will find crickets, worms, leeches (in season) and minnows. Mike carries an assortment of shiners and he will soon be carrying goldfish. 

The one species of minnow that he sells, which I have never seen before, is the Rosy Red. This is the minnow that Mike seems to favor. Like all small business owners, it is difficult for him to purchase a small quantity of items without an extremely high handling and shipping cost.

Mike wants his customers to have an enjoyable experience fishing so he purchases a small quantity of items from a big box store to have on hand, such as minnow buckets and bobbers for the convenience of his customers.

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