Are fish bothered by road traffic?
That question arose on a recent sky-blue Sunday, off the shoulder of Gregory Boulevard roping through Swope Park.
“They seem to be jumping a little more on this end,” said bass scavenger Brentton Peterson, 32, amid the white noise of cars snaking 20 feet behind him. “Maybe more aggressive fish? I’m no expert, so I don’t really know.”
Perhaps you know the fishing hole; maps call it Lake of the Woods. It’s that placid, popular pond — ringed by a broad ethnic array of anglers at all hours — that thousands of motorists wind around daily going to the interchange of Interstate 435 and Gregory Boulevard from the west, or heading home from a game at the Truman Sports Complex a few miles northeast.
Lake of the Woods. Except, we’re really not talking woods.
There’s traffic here, streaming into the entrance of Swope Memorial Golf Course or, down the way, the Kansas City Zoo and Starlight Theatre.
The lake’s quieter south edge is rimmed by forest, which is where Robert Morrow usually takes a trail to plant himself in the summer shade.
“I think in the daytime the traffic might move some fish that way,” Morrow said. On this spring day, however, he sits in the open on a bench below Swope Shelter No. 10, taking in the warm rays.
Lake of the Woods is among more than a dozen urban lakes on both sides of the state line that regularly get stocked — tens of thousands of catfish being the top fish in the mix. (Required fishing permits can be purchased at retailers such as Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s, Cabela’s and Wal-Mart.)
Regarding catfish, longtime Lake of the Woods angler Maurice Solomon, 55, harbors an Ahab-like respect for a monster he calls “Grandpa.” It’s been rooting around this lake for 20 years, Solomon guessed.
“Big boy. Forty pounds at least,” he said. “Nobody’s caught Grandpa.”
Solomon’s brother Cutean Curry, fishing nearby with 8-year-old son Darius, said of Grandpa: “Over near those trees, he’ll sometimes rise up, look at us, roll over and just go on with his business.”
If you’re sensing something friendly about this spot, you might want to get out of the car.
Here are picnickers, prophets, elderly people in wheelchairs, working poor hoping to slap something on the grill, and kids making their first casts.
“Nice throw, Darius,” said Curry when the boy flipped a bobber 40 feet out and proudly bobbed his head.
Here are philosophers on city life.
“You can get two things coming here,” said Oscar Edwards, 56, fishing with his wife and parents. “You’re either going to catch fish to take home, or you’re going to spend some peaceful time getting your head straight.
“A basket of fish or peace of mind. People really could use both ... but you’ll get one of those here.”
Wife Ruth Edwards moved from Dallas a year ago. A frequent contributor to Google Guide, she checked her cellphone (Lake of the Woods had five stars) and said she’d give it maybe four.
“Clean, neat, good location, nice people,” she said. “The only problem I have is I’m not catching fish.”
The serious fish-catching occurs before sunrise and after sunset, users say.
What matters more in the daylight hours are the people.
Someone a few years back donated a wooden ladder that stands against a limestone wall off the shoulder of busy Gregory Boulevard.
Motorists can’t see it, though anyone could steal it. The ladder is there for people to climb down and fish off shoreline otherwise inaccessible.
“It’s a community thing,” said frequent fisherman Curry.
As for this debate over fish movement and road traffic, Curry isn’t biting: “Nah, the fish don’t care what’s going on up there (on Gregory). They’re at the bottom trying to eat.
“They’ve been in the hood forever,” he said with a laugh. “They’ve got it down, know what I mean? Heh heh heh heh.”
Fishing at Lake of the Woods
Address: Gregory Boulevard at Oldham Road in Swope Park
Hours: All day, all night
Directions: From Interstate 435 and Gregory interchange, head three-quarters of a mile west on Gregory. The lake is across from the Swope Memorial Golf Course entrance.
Fish stocking hotline: 816-525-0300, ext. 4001