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

A Look at Exeter’s Fish Ladder

Several weeks ago on a soggy gray day, mister gardener attended a presentation by New Hampshire’s Fish and Game Department at Exeter’s fish ladder. The public was invited to see what fish were making the annual spring trip around the Great Dam taking them from salt water to fresh water.

Fish LadderThis is the location where fresh water of the Exeter River flow into the salty Squamscott River. The dam was constructed hundreds of years ago when the town was settled by Europeans to power sawmills, grist mills and more. Naturally, it was an obstacle to the fish that needed to migrate from salt water to fresh water to spawn. With the mills gone and a fish ladder in place, they have restored the natural habitat for such fish as smelt, alewife, blueback herring, American shad, American Eel and sea lamprey.

A small crowd gathered at the street and made the short walk downhill to the river.

Fish and Game Presentationand watched as a sampling of fish were netted and brought ashore.

netBiologist Becky Heuss shows a lamprey to the gathering, with a bit of wariness on the faces of these youngsters. What better way to introduce and educate the youth to be the natural caretakers of the future.

LampreyThe mouth identifies it as a lamprey rather than an eel.

Lamprey and more fish.

fishBecky Heuss and her assistant, Edward Motyka, a biological aide, explained the challenges fish face on route and explained the efforts to improve the ecological quality of the Squamscott and Exeter Rivers.

Fish and Game

A Mini-Walkabout in Exeter

Winter seemed to vanish overnight along with the mounds of snow just before the Easter weekend. Spring fever abounded with runners, walkers, shoppers, bikers outnumbering vehicles. We decided it was time to join in the procession and become acquainted with a bit of the town of Exeter, the capital of this new state during the Revolutionary War.

We made a visit to the Exeter Town Hall, built in 1855 and still going strong. It was on these steps that Abraham Lincoln spoke to a large crowd on March 6, 1860 against the expansion of slavery in the Kansas and Nebraska territories. It was later that year that he was elected our 16th president.

We climbed those steps to the interior of the building where we found a beehive of activity. Until 1979, the main floor was home to the police department but now it is used for community meetings. This day, they were making preparations for an Easter service… setting up chairs, sound equipment, bringing in Easter lilies.

We though we might as well climb the seemingly endless staircase to the second floor where District Court was originally held.

Now it’s the home of the Exeter Arts Committee, a volunteer Town Committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen to help promote the arts and artists in the area. This day they were sponsoring a youth art show from a bunch of local schools. I think I’d like to be a regular visitor to the upcoming art shows.

Views from the 2nd floor windows gave a grand panorama of Water Street and the Squamscott River in the distance…..

….and a nice view of the Bandstand in the center of town where the Exeter Brass Band gives concerts on Monday evenings during the summer.

We were in and out of diverse and interesting shops and reading the menus in the windows of a variety of restaurants along Water Street.

Travel and Nature

Stopping on a bridge crossing the Great Falls, we watched the fresh water Exeter River flowing over falls into the salty Squamscott River.

At the end of the shopping area was the Phillips Exeter Academy’s boathouse where four friendly and polite students greeted us at the door and laughed when I told them I thought their grand boathouse was the local farmers’ market. Crew season is just about to begin and training is in progress. mister gardener and I were invited in to see the interior that was filled with boats and equipment, girls on the left, boys on the right.

The girls in the middle are New Englanders, the gal on the left is from Exeter and the girl on the right is from Chicago. They gave us great advice for our next stop on our mini-walkabout.

The Squamscott River is where the teams train but cannot compete on the river, they said, because it is not straight enough.

We took the students’ advice and our last stop on our walk was their favorite ice cream store…. where we found more Phillips Exeter Academy students packing the store. I had butter brickle and mister gardener had black raspberry, a grand way to end our day!