A reference to Capt. Eugene C. Anthony might draw some attention, but “Tony the Reel Man” has been a most notable business name among area anglers for decades.
Anthony’s formal name while doing business is “Tony’s Reel and Down Rigger Repair,” an authorized warranty center for virtually every fishing reel downrig and trolling-motor fishermen use on Western New York waterways.
Anthony had set up his repair shop behind his residence at 7686 Michael Road in Orchard Park for the last 12 years. But before 2002 his cellar shop at 2493 Niagara Street was a gathering place for gear repair and outdoors information about everything from fishing on the upper Niagara River and other waters to hunting in the Southern Tier and elsewhere.
“I set up the shop back in 1976 and worked out of that cellar on everything from spinning reels to MinnKota motors,” Anthony said of his Riverside-area site just upstream from Hank’s Boat Livery, where he did many chartering trips in the 1980s.
A licensed charter captain since 1986, Anthony originated the Niagara River Musky Hunters Top 20 Club at Hank’s Boat Livery.
“A select few of the regulars like Clarence Gall and Alex Drew always took the top and most muskies, so Hank (Kurowski) was looking for a way to credit other musky anglers,” Anthony explained of the popular “musky board” that posts the top 20 biggest muskies each fishing season.
Muskies were a big draw, but Anthony recalls Buffalo News outdoor writer Mike Levy often contacted him at Hank’s for info on bass. That fishery has been a bountiful resource with recreational anglers for decades. Musky fishing calls for heavy gear, but kids and casual anglers can catch bass with more basic gear.
On kids and fishing, Anthony said, “I’d like to see more of the younger generation getting into fishing, not just for my repair business. I’m 76 now and would like to see more young kids fishing. It would be wonderful to see them with fishing poles rather than iPods and cell phones.”
Anthony saw many changes in the fishery and the ways in which anglers find and catch fish during more than a quarter century of gear-repair at his shop on the Niagara River. While he handles virtually every kind of fishing reel and trolling motors, he does not service the electronics for sonar and GPS units because “companies do not provide schematics like the other electronic devices.”
For example, he has been an authorized repair technician for MinnKota trolling motors for more than 30 years.
“I also do all kinds of electric golf caddies models for MinnKota, including radio-controlled hand caddies,” he said.
Anthony also repairs MotorGuide trolling motors. When it comes to downriggers, Anthony works on Cannon, Big John, Penn, Walker, Riviera, and other motorized models and can restore the spooling and casting abilities of fishing reels made in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Anthony has lasted in this reel and gear business for many reasons. Among them, he provides speedy service and there are fewer authorized repair centers.
“Sometimes guys come here from Pennsylvania and other long drives and I don’t want them to have to come back a second time or pay high shipping charges, “Anthony said. “I’ll often work on the more simple repairs while they’re here so they can take them home right then.”
The shop is closed on Wednesdays and Sundays. For information and fishing-gear repairs, check with him at 662-5692.