David Blagg stacked inner tubes in direct sunlight in the 90-degree heat on Friday afternoon in anticipation of people wanting to float on the Mokelumne River this weekend.
The Clements Bait, Tackle, Deli and Thrift Store, tucked into a 1,100-square-foot building on Highway 88, took a hit this year when the San Joaquin Sheriff's Department closed public access points to the Mokelumne River on July 12. The water was excessively cold, and there were swift currents because East Bay Municipal Utility District released more water than usual from Camanche Reservoir to avoid having the dam overflow from late-season rains and snowfall.
But now that the river has reopened, Blagg is encouraging local residents to come out and enjoy it.
"We just want people to know that it is open. It is our best fishing year in the past 20 years, and no one is able to enjoy it," he said.
Blagg opened the business about a year-and-a-half ago with his mother, Cecelia Barton. In addition to renting fishing and floating equipment, the business serves as a general store.
Last July the store sold 350 tubes, but this year it has sold only 25.
Blagg finds the rubber tubes from private businesses around the area, and then sells them from anywhere from $12.50 to $70 for one that holds multiple people.
Barton has lived in Clements for 28 years, and said that tubing down the river is "good, clean, inexpensive family fun." During the winter, she said, the tubes can be used for sledding or other games.