Sign up for our Newsletter

The Southold tackle shop reopened thanks in big part to the fishing community. (Angela Colangelo photo)

Flattie, tautog, striper — if those words mean anything to you, you’ll be happy to know that an anchor of North Fork fishing, Wego Fishing Bait & Tackle (64355 Route 25, Southold), is back open for business. And just in time — the shop opened on April 1, coinciding with flounder (also known as a flattie!) and tautog season, and striped bass season started April 15.

Rita Stathis on opening WeGo day. (Photo courtesy of Rita Stathis)

The future of the Southold shop was up in the air after the sudden passing of owner Steven Sponza in Sept. 2023, who operated Wego the last two decades with his wife, Elizabeth Stathis. His step-daughter, Rita Stathis, and longtime shop manager Craig Jobes — both Southold High School graduates — took the helm this year. They credit Sponza’s legacy within the fishing community as the fuel they needed to channel their grief into the energy to open up shop again.

“He made his mark on the fishing community,” says Jobes, who worked alongside Sponza at the shop on and off the last 20 years. “The community played a big role in our opening. The outpouring of support showed us what this shop and Steve meant to the North Fork.”

“It is touching,” says Stathis. “Everyone has been stopping in to say how excited they are that we’re still open. It’s bittersweet, obviously, with Steven being gone, but we’re excited to carry it on for him.”

Jobes had been managing the shop along with Sponza the last seven years, and says they’re sticking to the late owner’s brand of friendly, knowledgeable service and keeping the business strictly bait and tackle, while expanding the selection a bit.

“This year we took everything the way Steve built it and are going from there,” says Jobes. “Our focus is on the bait and tackle industry. That’s what sets us apart from others. Steve poured everything into this and his customers saw that.”

The shop is fully stocked with bait and tackle for all styles of fishing on the North Fork — be it inshore or offshore, in the surf or on a boat. The shop is currently open seven days from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the end of April. Starting May 1, the hours extend from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Sponza’s legacy is alive and well around the shop. A photo of him with his favorite fish, the tautog, or blackfish, takes its place on the front counter.

“We want to keep that personal touch that Steve put on everything. I think that’s something everyone loved about him,” Jobes says.

“He was the kindest, sweetest man,” Stathis gushes. “We just want to make him proud.”