ST. GEORGE, Utah — The manager of Dixie Gun & Fish leans over the counter. He hands me a cookie. Oatmeal raisin. The cookie is homemade, and if not for the desert mountains surrounding the store, I would think this diabetes delight came from down South.
But though the sign reads “Dixie,” we are not in the South. The manager, Dick Warren, and I are in the town of St. George, Utah—almost within sight of Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, the Grand Canyon and a few hours down the road from Las Vegas. The internet will tell you there’s no fishing here.
The internet is wrong.
In St. George, there is plenty of fishing: enough to support Dixie Gun & Fish—with a little help— for over 30 years. There are also some damn good cookies.
In the parking lot, Warren’s staff (all dressed in matching yellow, Browning jerseys) are firing up the grill. There will soon be some damn good hotdogs.
Inside, Warren, an Illinois transplant, is waxing poetic on his newfound hometown of St. George, which is in the midst of an economic boom. “I moved to St. George in 1966. There was one stoplight in town. Now, we’re overrun with them. I’ve been selling fishing licenses, fishing equipment, hunting equipment for 45 years.”
Dixie Gun & Fish is (obviously) not solely in the fishing tackle business. Like many fishing tackle retailers, they are also in the business of selling firearms and hunting supplies. A wall of weaponry lines one side of the store as you walk in; but the other side features a wide range of fishing tackle that covers the gamut of sport fish available near St. George.
“If you want to go trout fishing, you can go trout fishing,” Warren says. “If you want to go bass fishing, you can go bass fishing within half an hour.”
Looming over the trout and bass gear is a layout of massive, saltwater-esque baitcasting reels. In the desert, big water gear sticks out like a sore thumb.
“A lot of people go up to Fishlake and try to catch some of those giant macks,” Warren explains. Fishlake, a six-mile long alpine den for 25-pound-plus Mackinaw trout lies three hours to the north. The reservoirs of Lake Powell and Lake Mead are each about two hours away from Warren’s shop.
“Our hottest selling fishing lure is probably the Gitzit for bass. We do sell a lot of Powerbait, and there’s still a lot of people using the old KB Spinner Lure which is probably the most popular lure around. It’s been around a long time, as long as I have been.”
Like most independent retailers these days, Warren says Dixie Gun & Fish faces competition from big box and online outlets. To keep his store fresh in the community’s mind, Dixie Gun & Fish participates in local free fishing days. “Free fishing day happens once a year on a Saturday. It’s open to everybody. Fish & Wildlife puts on a fishing clinic several times a year, and we donate Powerbait and fishing poles for the kids.”
He’ll also tell you that the biggest percentage of the store’s sales come from hunting. “But,” he’s quick to mention, “We sell a lot of fishing tackle out of this little place.”
A lot of fishing tackle … in the desert. Which just goes to show you that fishing can be appreciated anywhere— just like cookies.