Lunker’s hooks customers

Published 10:36 am Monday, January 27, 2014

Lou Ann Smith and April Striz greet customers from behind the bar at the Angler's Inn. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

Lou Ann Smith and April Striz greet customers from behind the bar at the Angler’s Inn. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

EDWARDSBURG — A “lunker” is a big fish, and Lunker’s is one big hunting, camping and fishing tackle store.

Actually, it’s a whole lot more than a store. It’s a hunting and fishing emporium, a restaurant and an aquarium—all housed under one roof at 26324 U.S. 12 East.

The owners, Danny and April Striz, want to offer something for everyone. For that reason, they are in the process of implementing a number of projects that will further enhance the store’s appeal.

“It started out in 1985 as a bait shop. It just kind of took off from there, little by little. The owners started expanding it,” explained Randy “R.J.” Jesensky, a manager at Lunker’s. “The restaurant started out as a little counter where you could order a hamburger or a hotdog, and now it seats quite a few people.”

Some of the most recent changes in that restaurant, The Angler’s Inn, include a new menu with a greater emphasis on seafood.

“We’re doing a lot more with our fresh seafood buffets. That’s really taking off,” said April Striz, of the buffet that is available on Saturdays from 5 to 9 p.m. Daily specials are also available.

“The menu has changed significantly, but we want to continue to carry the things that we’re known for, like the Lunker Burger. That’s a 10-ounce burger,” Striz said.

The Angler’s Inn also hopes to cater to guests with lighter appetites.

“With our new menu, we’re offering both half-size and regular-size salads because the full size is so big. We like to offer folks an alternative,” Striz said.

Beyond the changes in the menu, the interior of the restaurant has also undergone a physical transformation, including the addition of a sports bar.

“I can’t tell you how many times people say, ‘I haven’t been here for so many years, and it’s so different!’” Striz said. “There’s been a major change in the last few years. All of this interior, we’ve redone it in the last three years. We’ve added the big TVs to attract peo to come in here and watch the games, and people like doing that.”

Despite all of the changes, one of the most important aspects of the restaurant has remained relatively stable.

“Some of our cooks and managers have been here for over 20 years,” Striz said. “It’s pretty awesome to have a management staff with such longevity.”

One of the big attractions for both kids and adults who visit Lunker’s is the impressive collection of live fish, reptiles and amphibians that are housed in more than 20 aquariums.

“Kids love it around here,” Jesensky said. “There’s a 600-gallon saltwater aquarium in the middle of the restaurant, and we’ve got a plethora of fish tanks—everything from turtles to tarantulas. They’re pretty neat and something that most people don’t see every day.”

Lunker’s also has a large collection of mounts that attract the attention of both children and adults. They include a beaver, a wolf, a coyote, an ostrich, and an alligator, among others.

“They were donated by a gentleman that passed away,” Jesensky said. “He wanted people to enjoy some of the mounts that he had, and he asked us if we would care to show them.”

A display of native fish, arranged to look like they are swimming in a river, can also be found in the area of the store where fishing tackle is displayed. That area of Lunker’s boasts approximately 16,000 square feet of fishing, hunting and camping gear.

“We want to make sure that the sportsman that comes here is taken care of and knows where to go, what to do, and the best possible way to do it,” Jesensky said. “We just try to help them a little bit, and if we can, then we’ve done our job.”

One way that Lunker’s does that is by holding an annual Fishing Extrava-ganza. This will be its 23rd year, and it will take place from Feb. 28 through March 2. More information about the event is available at and on their Facebook page.

“We like to have a lot of the new items in then, with a lot of people to help the customers, and we try to get some speakers in here. That way, it’s fun for the whole family,” Jesensky said.

In anticipation of that event, the folks at Lunker’s have been working on re-purposing one of the areas in the store.

“We’re currently in the process of changing an area into one for gifts and for kids. It’ll have pinball machines and air hockey,” Jesensky said. “There will be gifts and greeting cards there, too.”

“It’s good because guys don’t mind bringing their wives in here. They know their wives can get something to eat and do some shopping while they go look at lures,” Jesensky explained. “A lot of people like coming here with their kids already because the kids love looking at the fish tanks.”