LEXINGTON TWP. — The menu at Tall Tales is simple but expansive.

Neatly typed and laminated, it features nine extra yummy entrees. Each includes suggestions on how best to enjoy them, or rather to use them to catch a stringer full of fish.

Tall Tales is a "mom and pop" bait and tackle shop, one of the few left in the Stark County area. And it's one of last places remaining where you can purchase minnows, a popular live bait for spring and fall anglers targeting crappie and walleye.

"The demand for minnows has skyrocketed," said shop owner 36-year-old Mike DeBee, who bought the place from his uncle, Dave DeBee, last spring. "I'd say 60 percent of the calls we get are, 'Do you have minnows?' and bait is what pays the bills."

Small minnows are $2.29 a dozen. Medium minnows go for $3.25. Throw in dug worms, red worms, night crawlers, maggots, wax worms, shiners and leeches and you have a veritable buffet.

Tucked in the northeast corner of the county near Alliance, on Union Avenue Northeast, the DeBee family couldn't have picked a better location for Tall Tales. It's in the shadow of Deer Creek, Berlin and Walborn reservoirs and a long cast away from sections of the Mahoning River.

The shop opened in 1989 and has remained in the family with the exception of a three-year stint from 2014 through 2017 when the store was leased to another operator.

Mike DeBee worked there as a kid. After he graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, he was off to the University of Miami (Fla.), where he spent five years in a shark studies program. It was a great experience but not the best way to earn a living. After college, he found himself managing retail stores until his uncle sold him the shop.

"It's a rite of passage in our family to work here," he said.

Another uncle, Bob Schafer, is a current employee. So is cousin Luke DeBee, a Marlington High junior who's made a habit this spring of catching walleye before school. Another cousin, a registered nurse, plans to put in her time at the shop, as well.

As bait shops go, Tall Tales is orderly and clean. Every lure and jig on the four walls — from the Rapala Shad Raps to the 51 different colors of Panfish Assassins — hangs in equidistant rows and columns.

"He's a little anal about displays," Schafer said of Mike DeBee.

And DeBee doesn't apologize.

It's his customer-focused retail background.

"You notice the smell?" DeBee asked aloud. "There isn't one. That's how I like it. There's nothing that says a bait shop has to have a fishy smell, or that it can't be clean."

Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association in Alexandria, Va., said the fishing industry remains big business.

"There's absolutely still opportunities for [mom and pop bait shops] to survive and thrive," he said.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey estimates there are more than 2 million anglers in Ohio; their fishing activities help support 26,354 jobs in the state.

Although Tall Tales is around the corner from Berlin Reservoir, half of the shop is stocked with artificial baits and gears, such as rods and reels, dedicated to Lake Erie anglers.

"You can't rely on a lake that goes up and down like that for your survival," DeBee said, noting the drastic summer drawdown levels of Berlin, which effectively closes much of the lake to boaters by late summer.

The shop is active on multiple social media platforms, an Ohio fishing forum, and is ready to launch an improved website where customers can shop for every artificial bait in stock.

DeBee knows he can't match the quantity of artificial baits offered by the likes of Dick's Sporting Goods, Cabela's or Bass Pro Shops.

He and his family try to make up for it with local knowledge and by stocking what local amateur and pro anglers say they want. By posting photos of proud anglers with their catches on social media. By catering to beginners and pros. And by providing regular written fishing reports for the Mahoning River and nearby lakes.