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March 21. 2015 8:17PM

Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Smelt loss is a blow to local fishing

LIVING ON Great Bay for about a half century, we have been blessed with access to this great resource for lots of adventures.

For many years the Dickster and two partners, Brad Conner and Roy Syphers, both from Greenland, were feared by both the waterfowl population and the fish that swam in the bay and the Piscataqua River, which drains the Bay.In the winter, as soon as good ice had developed, we had both permanent (as permanent as conditions would allow) and mobile fishing shelters that were then known as "shanties."

We could access our permanent shanty by foot from my shoreline when conditions allowed and when we fished on remote places on the bay, we could mostly access those with snowmobiles or, when the ice was thick enough, regular vehicles. This fishing was a combination of a social event and often a very good producer of fine eating fish, sometimes enough so the fish could be spread around the neighborhood and, on occasion, sold.

Smelt were a family tradition for probably the majority of families living around the bay.

In the warmer months, Brad and the Dickster were known to wreak havoc on both the schoolie stripers and the big "bull" stripers that we mostly caught in Little Bay and the Piscataqua River. These provided both great sport and a lot of great protein for our family and several others.

The waterfowling was world class. Black ducks were always available in good numbers and huge flocks of migrating lesser scaup (bluebills) and plenty of big Canada geese made the mistake of visiting our flock of about 100 hand-carved Brad Conner decoys with big cork bodies and hand carved pine heads. This hunting now is a shade of its former self!

We still have the stripers but nowhere near the amount of big ones in the 40- to 55-pound range and nowhere near the amount of little ones, which were often under the 16-inch (then) size limit. But we have quite a few fish in the mid-20-pound range and occasionally take one in the mid-30-pound range. So we're still happy about this fishery and continue to pursue those great fish as much as we can.

What is terribly worrisome is the apparent lack of saltwater smelt. And we mean lack of! And to our knowledge, nobody in the Fish and Game Marine Division saw this coming.

Why? Because a spring study that collected spawning smelt eggs in our smelt spawning freshwater tributaries was abandoned about five years ago.

Great Bay smelt supported an incredible recreational fishery and also a fairly lucrative but limited commercial sector as well. Smelt fishing was part of the basic fabric of this whole community that surrounds the Bay. And it's gone! And nobody at Fish and Game seems to know why and to my knowledge there are no plans to recharge this smelt population by importing smelt eggs or other means. What a black eye for what once was a very alert and dynamic department.

Right now, Fish and Game are fighting to keep its department from being sucked into the Department of Safety, which more or less looks like F&G's divisions that are devoted to conservation and public relations will be the very poor sisters to F&G's Law Enforcement Division if this happens.

Please explain to the Dickster why us sportsmen should be fighting to prevent this, given your very poor performances of protecting and preserving our natural resources currently?

It's shameful! And nobody seems to be doing anything too productive to turn our loss of natural resources around or to even protect the somewhat meager marine resources we now have. Please tell me it ain't true!

Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol and let's turn the heat up!

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.

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