In the opening of The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck wrote that “there is another world, but it is in this one.” His point was that our natural desire to wonder about the great mysteries of our lives might be well-served if we were to look at where we are but from a new perspective. Kansans have long known to appreciate life’s simple offerings. We also are particularly resourceful at doing the very best with what we have. Sometimes, all we need is one opportunity to see our space from a different vantage point to discover the rich resources already at our disposal. Such was the case last week when I and my son went “urban fishing” with my youngest nephew.
My nephew, who is 9, has wanted to go fishing, but the opportunities for him to make this happen have been limited. After a quick online search for fishing ponds in the Topeka area, I discovered that Shawnee County Parks and Recreation maintains six public access ponds and one fishing stream. These waterways range in size from the modest 1.4-acre Freedom Valley Pond all the way up to t
he 410-acre Lake Shawnee. Most are relatively secluded and offer an inexpensive respite from city life.
Each of these venues is equipped with barrier-free docks, mowed shorelines, and opportunities to catch bluegill, channel catfish, bass, and crappie, some of the most sought-after gamefish in our state. What an excellent program to introduce the children in our communities to positive and healthy outdoor activities!
There are, of course, site-specific rules and regulations that need to be followed, so please be sure to familiarize yourself accordingly before you go. For instance, girls and boys under 16 will not need a fishing license, but for those 16 and over, a fishing license is a legal requirement. Fishing licenses can be purchased online at ksoutdoors.com, by calling800-918-2877, at any Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks office, or at multiple retails outlets in communities across the state. From Dodge City to Wichita to Lenexa, and in virtually every city and town in-between, a quick google search of public access fishing locations will reveal a hidden gem close to you. Search “Ten of the Best Urban Fishing Spots in Kansas” to get started.
We decided to try our luck at the 4-acre Clarion Woods Park pond, which also has a beautiful nature trail that meanders through the trees. When we first arrived, we settled on the dock with our bait, poles, and a must-have assortment of snacks. We were the only ones fishing, though a few people came by on the trail, for the first hour, until others began to find their own “secret” spot on the bank. Even though it was a Saturday evening, there were only five other people fishing on the whole lake, and it felt a little bit like it was our own private getaway. The city was a few hundred feet away on the other side of the towering black walnut trees, but it felt like we were in another world, really. We caught a few small bluegills and enjoyed watching the red-eared slider turtles weave their way through the shallow moss beds. But most importantly, we discovered an aspect of our world that was formerly invisible.
An evening on the serene shore of an urban pond is the perfect opportunity to teach a nephew, niece, grandchild, daughter, or son about fishing and to foster the realization that “other worlds do exist,” they are worth visiting, and they are often right around the corner from where we live. Stay safe. Be well. See you in the country.