Teen snorkeling for fishing lures catches entrepreneurial enterprise

In the rough-and-tumble teen employment world, youth sometimes have to be creative to get summer work. Some work on family fishing boats. Others pull lattes at espresso stands.

Or, you could dive in local rivers and salvage fishing lures for resale.

Entrepreneur Jakob Easton, 16, entering his junior year next fall at Homer High School, has done just that.

Last Saturday at the Homer Council on the Arts Street Faire he set up a booth selling recycled lures. Hanging on chicken wire stapled to plywood were an array of hundreds of Mepps, Vibrax and Pixie lures selling for from $1 to $4 each. The more battered lures he sold as parts — “great for arts, crafts, jewelry,” a sign said.

Easton got the idea for diving for lures when he lived in Maine. Walking along shallow rivers he could see lures caught on logs.

“It was like, ‘Here’s a lure,’” he said. “We should go snorkeling for them. They’re tons of them.”

With his dad Will and brother Lukas along to help, Easton puts on a wet suit and snorkels in local fishing rivers. Like any fisherman protecting his favorite fishing hole, he’s coy about which streams he swims. In one river Easton found about 500 lures in eight hours of work.

He finds lures caught on logs and rocks. Often they come in big tangled messes of fishing line and sticks. Once he found a lure attached to the upper part of a rod. Another time he found a Vibrax still attached to a steelhead skeleton. Common Alaska lures dominate, but Easton finds other brands, too — evidence of Lower 48 fishermen.

“You find unusual stuff, like a lure used to catch bass,” he said.

Easton takes the lures home and with old toothbrushes and soap cleans them up. Old hooks he replaces with new hooks. The plastic on some lures look a bit faded, the spoons scuffed, but many look good as new. He finds fly fishing lures, too, but those tend to be in bad shape after a winter or two in the river.

Taking tangled messes of lures out of the river has another benefit, Easton said.

“We’re cleaning up the river,” he said. “We’re basically taking everything out.”

That helps trout and salmon streams, said Carol Kerkvliet, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Homer.

“It’s always good to get foreign objects, littering out of any place,” she said. “Being able to clean up the river and remove lures and fishing line — it’s a good thing.”

Fish and Game might give Easton a little competition. On a recent king salmon study using nets on the Ninilchik River, biologists picked up about 20 lures. Kerkvliet said they’ll clean up those lures and offer them to young anglers for Kids Fishing Days this summer.