Disposable Camera Tour
Ice Houses of
When the river freezes
a small shanty village appears
on the Squamscott. There wasn't a smelt in sight when we wandered
onto the river recently.
The ice cracked and moaned as small
flows broke out along the shore, making it difficult to get onto the
river. Gulls hovered by salt water pools in search of scattered
shrimp and bits of fish. In the parkig lot, hehind the
Phillips Exeter Academy boathouse, sightseers watched from warm cars
for signs of activity, but there were none. The ice fishing shacks
were as still as the renovated mill buildings across the
Further down the river past Swayzee Park is a
popular gathering spot. A dozen trucks and cars filled the small
parking among the trees on a point of
land above the river. Fishermen had lowered themselves to the river, dressed in
thick clothes and heavy boots, hanging onto bits of rope
attached to spindly trees. We followed their path, easing our way onto the frozen
salt water along wooden planks near the melting shore.
You have to love this sport, and the boredom and
isolation. Sportsmen hover in makeshift wooden shacks, drill square
holes in the thick ice, hook up propane stoves and
battery-powered radios -- and wait. When the rush comes, the smelt
hit a number of hooks at once. The state game warden allows a haul
of five quarts per day. WIRE
magazine reports that a
14-inch smelt was recently taken, twice the size of the standard
little fish. They fry up full-length in a large pan, a Yankee classic meal.
The sport may be centuries old.
Sportsmen suggest that sea worms and bloodworms make the best beit.
Running smelt are attracted to red sinkers and the bits of bait
jiggling on the line. Some fish like corn.
There's more to the sport than sitting. Remember
that the Great Bay Estuary is tidal. The water rises and falls with
the moving water. At low tide, according to New England
, the ice may sit directly on the mud below. Night
fishing is best, and the sportman has six good hours and only a few
short months. Short months to the ice fishers, long months for the rest
of us. -- JDR
All photos by J/ Dennis Robinson
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