Ice Fishing in Exeter

We’ve had some bitterly cold days in New Hampshire this winter and hundreds of New Hampshire ice fishermen have been taking full advantage across the state. Ice on the Squamscott River in Exeter is nice and thick so we don’t have to drive very far to find bobhouses or a small shanty village on the ice. It’s all right here in the center of our town. We can stay in our warm cars and watch from several different shorelines and capture the scene using a zoom camera.

Shanty Town, Exeter, Feb. 2019

This afternoon we joined other spectators waiting patiently for some human activity, while joining a number of seagulls on the ice waiting patiently for scraps of bait or pieces of fish.

seagulls, Exeter, Feb, 2019

We didn’t wait long before we saw a young couple gathering gear from their vehicle and venturing across the ice toward their shanty. They were happily greeted by a fellow ice fisherman emerging from a neighboring shanty.


This time of year it’s smelt that the fishermen are seeking as the fish migrate to estuaries or tributaries from December through March. It looked like their fishing hole may have iced over so a little neighborly help with chopping, they reopened the hole and cleared a bit of overnight snow.

Exeter, ice fishing, Feb. 2019

Hole cleared, these ice anglers prepare their jigging rod with bait… perhaps baiting with flies or sea worms, bloodworms, or perhaps a bit of corn.

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Ice fishing is so new to us and much of it still a mystery. It seems simple… cut a hole, drop a line with bait, and pull up your catch. But there are a lot of intricacies that we will never know. Clothing, equipment… rods, tackle, ice gear, bait, propane heaters, cookstove, battery radios, plus changing tides, weather, and knowing where the fish are running. These ice fishermen have the know-how and the yankee spirit we are lacking. It’s a spectator sport for us. We much prefer watching from the sidelines in a warm car… with camera!

ice fishing, Exeter, Feb. 2019

New Hampshire Bobhouses

According to the NOAA, we have about 20″ of snow on the ground. The tally came after about 7 or 8″ of fresh snow yesterday. It’s snowing again now with an inch or two more expected tonight. We don’t go out in it much. We stand at the window and watch it fall in awe and disbelief.

A warmup is in the forecast. We’re jumping to 48 degrees on Friday. Where will all the melt end up? That’s a worry for all who have basements…us included.

After shoveling a pathway (not me but mister gardener!) to feed our our avian friends, we decided to drive down to the river and see how the bobhouses fared in the snowstorm.

pathway in the snowWe’re just learning about bobhouses. It’s certainly a huge New Hampshire tradition, perhaps a bigger thing on Lake Winnipesaukee than on our local rivers, but we do have a number of bobhouses where diehard ice fishermen have some protection from the elements.

In other states, I’ve heard the huts called by names like ice shanty, ice house, or ice shack but here they call these portable buildings ‘bobhouses’ and no one really knows why. Theories are that fish ‘bob’ on the line, that the houses ‘bob’ in the water if not removed before the ice is thin, but I like the theory that the verb ‘to bob’ means to cut short, such as in a hair style or in bobsled with short runners. And, indeed, these shanties are small structures, some bought, many handmade, painted, plywood, metal… very individualized and colorful.

I would think most bobhouses are pretty basic, however some bobhouses may have a woodstove for warmth, a camping potty or a generator and a t.v. We were hoping to see some activity on the ice today but our bobhouses looked vaccant after about 8 inches of snow last night.

Click photos to enlarge.