A few miles south of Joplin, just off of U.S. highway 71 at Gateway Road, is a wonderful 10-acre lake. It’s part of Shoal Creek Resort RV Park and Campground, and I’ve spent many relaxing evenings casting there.
This past year the park switched owners when it was purchased by Billy Holcomb. Billy not only got the lake but the entire complex which includes a big stretch of Shoal Creek, a vast array of concrete parking pads each with power and water as well as a restaurant building, which had stood empty for many years.
I hadn’t been to the park since late last summer and was surprised by the dramatic changes when I finally made it back. I met with Billy recently and he took me on a tour. Since a huge cold front had passed through the night before, the fish were not likely to be biting, which provided me with plenty of time for touring the park.
As we stood and looked out across the lake, Billy pointed out a series of small white buoys that lay scattered across its shallow southern end. He explained that a local guy had started using the lake as a place to run his radio controlled boat. His club soon followed and now they were hosting a sanctioned RC Boat competition on April 31 and May 1.
On the way to the creek, I passed the newly constructed shower house and saw dirt work all along the graveled road. There are two separate camping and event sections in the park, one called Area 491⁄2 and the other Area 51. Keeping the two separated allows both families and adults to enjoy the same event. Families can stay at the first while it will be adults only at the latter.
On May 7-8, the park will host its first Mason Dixon Bike Rendezvous & Blessing. With quad track racing, Civil War reenactments, bands and a Miss Shoal Creek Pageant, this will be more than just a motorcycle rally.
As Billy and I walked up the hill to the restaurant building he asked if I’d been there while it was still open. Although I remembered it as a place that served barbecue, I could remember nothing further. As we entered, I was surprised by all of the work that was going on. Billy had taken the building back to its studs, basically starting over. New insulation was in place, the interior walls were standing and the ceiling was almost completed. We toured the large kitchen which was taking shape very nicely. He explained he was going for a 50’s theme and it would be named “The Diner.” He’s planning to be open for the rally in May.
I walked to the creek but the water was muddy, high and running fast. Although it was a nice walk, I soon returned to the lake.
Our recent cold front had prompted me to leave my kayak at home. That decision had been reinforced by how cold the water remained. I gathered two rods from the truck — a light one for panfish and a heavier one for the bass — and began to work my way around the water’s edge.
There is one spot along the eastern edge where the shallow water ends that is normally good for a bass or two. I spent several minutes there casting more carefully and fishing more slowly. The fish didn’t let me down. I had two strikes but landed neither. One fought for a brief time before getting off while the other tugged twice and took my plastic worm along with him when he left.
The fee for fishing at the park is $10 daily or $15 for a family, and an annual fishing pass is available. No state fishing license is required and there are generous bag limits.
Although my timing was off and the fish didn’t cooperate on this trip, I know that the lake is full of fish. As soon as the weather settles I’ll be back. My father has already stressed that with the freezer empty and our family fish fry mere months away, we are in dire need of panfish filets. He and I, our two-man scamp and the lake at Shoal Creek Resort RV Park and Campground will be a fine way for us to remedy that problem.
For more information on Shoal Creek RV Park see www.shoalcreekresort.com or call 417-621-0807.
SILAS GRAY receives correspondence at The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, Mo. 64802, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.