Loch Lomond

“It’s really old Marin,” says Andy Bachich (above), owner of Andy’s Local Market, a boyish grin cracking up his 49-year-old face. “Man, it is like the good old days.”

Andy—everyone calls him “Andy,” most customers don’t know his last name—is talking about his Friday evening “Dine-In Meals.” Starting at four in the afternoon and going strong for the next three hours, Andy’s Market is party central in Loch Lomond. “In summer, we fire up the barbecues, and most of the area’s kids, couples, seniors and families show up for dinner. We usually have around 200 people here.”

Two hundred neighbors at a $9.99 supper may not seem much of a crowd, but that’s almost a third of the population of Loch Lomond, an unincorporated San Rafael community that straddles Point San Pedro Road two miles due east of Highway 101. And if Andy’s is the heart and soul of this neighborhood, its arms and legs are across Point San Pedro Road, bearing names like Dunfries Terrace, Locksly Lane, Inverness Drive and Bonnie Banks Way. In the early ’60s, the legendary McCarthy family, known for political as well as construction involvement, developed Loch Lomond and gave the area its name.

Local historian John Maple estimates Loch Lomond has over 200 homes and is specific about the community’s boundaries. “It only includes the Scottish-sounding street names,” he avows. But if Mill Valley–based real estate developer Thompson/Dorfman Partners has its way, those 200 residences will be increased by 81 homes in the not-so-distant future. The Village at Loch Lomond—including a new home for Andy’s Market as well as the beloved Bobby’s Fo’C’Sle Cafe, destroyed in a 2007 fire—has been in planning for nearly a decade and is now reportedly back-burnered until the economy recovers.

The Village at Loch Lomond will sit on the bay side of Point San Pedro Road, adjacent to Loch Lomond Marina and its 517 slips, private yacht club, two-lane public launching site and half-mile breakwater. “We have the best sturgeon and striper fishing in San Francisco Bay,” says Pat Lopez, the marina’s manager, “and because we’re in the far eastern part of Marin, our weather is warmer and sunnier” than elsewhere in the county. The marina is also home to the “World’s Greatest Bait Shop.”

And if you really like local color, Loch Lomond Live Bait and Tackle is where you want to be. In 1970, Keith Fraser and Art Donati bought, in Fraser’s words, “this dilapidated bait hut for $6,700—it looked like an abandoned Oklahoma outhouse.” Forty years later, the hut, now a bright blue shop, boasts nine live bait tanks (“almost every possible kind of shrimp, shiner, mudsucker and bullhead,” Fraser boasts) and purveys top-of-the-line rods, reels and tackle. Fraser, a recognized sturgeon fishing expert, is a veritable font of stories involving life both above and below the blue water shimmering around his bait shack. “Have you heard about Nasty, the Great Blue Heron?” one of his favorites begins. “Nasty was with us for over 18 years.”  About 10 years ago Nasty Junior appeared and over time likewise endeared himself to Fraser and his bait shack buddies. “Then one Christmas Day, Nasty Junior appeared weak and sickly and with a leader hanging from his bill,” Fraser recalls. “Obviously a baited hook or two were lodged in the poor fella’s tummy.”

But Nasty Junior, resisting help, flew away, not to be seen again for nearly two weeks. “When Junior returned,” Fraser laments, “he was still dangling the darn leader and was one starving bird.” This time, using live bait, Fraser lured Nasty Junior into his shop and put him in a large box. Then a crew from San Rafael’s WildCare rushed him to an animal shelter in Solano County, where he survived two and a half hours of surgery. “Now,” Fraser is proud to report, “Nasty Junior flies in almost daily to express his gratitude and enjoy a few live shrimp.”

Two years ago, Nasty Senior was not so fortunate in a similar misadventure. “Some nitwit left a leader with a baited hooks on the deck,” Fraser says, “and sure enough, Nasty gobbled it up and came flying to us with a foot of leader trailing from his beak.” Like his offspring, the original Nasty was captured, transported and tended to by WildCare. “Only this time, after a four-hour operation I got a call saying Nasty Senior didn’t make it,” Fraser says.

These days, he considers himself blessed to have had not just Nasty Senior and Junior hanging around but also Ahab, the one-legged Heermann’s gull who would perch on Fraser’s head (“no, he never pooped on me,” Fraser replies to the obvious question); Pee-Wee, the tiny snowy egret who paces nearby railings until a live shiner (or three or four) is offered up; and Emma, the friendly great egret, who waits for a rookie angler to leave a bait bucket unguarded before emptying it and flying out over the bay, squawking in mad delight.   

All the birds pay almost daily visits to Loch Lomond Live Bait and Tackle. “They are very smart, very territorial,” Fraser says, “and they know what’s going on.” So the ebb and flow continues at the World’s Greatest Bait Shop, much as it does in the rest of this aquatic pocket of Marin.