Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: What's happened to Great Bay is tragic

By DICK PINNEY | October 15. 2016 11:43PM

THE OPENING of the early goose season on Great Bay was a good reflection of how much the loss of most of the bay's eelgrass has denigrated the bay's ability to support the huge flocks of waterfowl that we used to see. We only heard five or six gunshots!

Living on the shore of Great Bay for over 50 years gives us a great prospective of the changes, and have we ever seen changes!

As a youngster born and brought up within hearing distance of the great gunshot barrage that came with the opening day of any waterfowl hunting season, we have the advantage of putting the changes into perspective and, believe me, the changes have been both destructive to the bay's ability to support a vast amount of both flora and fauna as well as a tremendous amount of recreation.

My grandmother (my dad's mom) always had a rental camp on the shore of Little Bay, which to the unknowing is just an extension of Great Bay that links Great Bay to the Piscataqua River.

We learned to swim there as did my older sister Jane and brother Frank. We also enjoyed being taken on clam digging excursions right out in front of Grammy's camp, guided by Ernest Bradsteet, my dad's stepfather.

Grampy Bradstreet, as he liked to be called, was a cantankerous old gent who was pretty typical of his age group. It took a half dozen also cantankerous old outboard motors to get one that would start up and take us to various clam digging grounds but it didn't take but a half hour for all of our buckets to be full of great clams. And Grammy Bradstreet's clam chowder was the best.

In those days and in fairly recent times, it was no challenge to dig a bucket of clams or fill a bushel basket with Great Bay oysters, which were a real treat to hundreds if not thousands of people who used to harvest them both by tonging from a boat or just wading out into the oyster beds and picking them by hand, dragging a bushel basket that was sitting inside an inflated car inner tube that floated the heavy load.

And the waterfowl! During both their spring and fall migrations, they would darken the sky when roused up by passing boats or hunters during their season. The noise they made, both by their pounding wing beats and their honking and quacking, was deafening.

And now all of this is just about gone! It's just about impossible to harvest a bushel of oysters! Clam digging in the legally-open clam flats is very tough and limits come from several hours hunched over a clam digging rake-type device, that is if you're lucky enough to find that many clams.

It's no mystery why all of this delightful bounty has diminished to just about nothing. It's the loss of eelgrass. And this loss of eelgrass is definitely the result of an overcharge of nutrients and other poisons that come from the outflow of both human and industrial waste into the Great Bay and its tributaries as well as the Piscataqua River that drains and fills the Great Bay watershed.

In our years of being on the shores of the Bay, we've seen the huge beds of eelgrass disappear. We used to spend a half day removing the seasonal kill of eelgrass from our small swimming beach area on our shoreline. We didn't waste this grass as we wheeled load after load up onto our lawns and gardens for both mulch and fertilizer and our gardens answered our labor by producing great crops of veggies and fruit.

Today, you'd be hard pressed to fill a wheelbarrow of eelgrass in a day's gathering!

So the huge flocks of waterfowl that used to come in the spring and fall are just a memory. As is that roar of waterfowlers' gunshots. The shellfish that we once thought were unlimited are very scarce or showing signs such as stress related shell weakness. The huge schools of smelt that used to support thousands of ice anglers each winter are gone. Yup, not just scarce-they are gone. Flounder, once quite prevalent, are just about gone. Juvenile striped bass are gone. Black sea bass are scarce. About the only resource that seems to have flourished are lobsters and white perch. Apparently these two species seem to flourish on heavy nutrient loads.

Thank God for little favors. But pray to God for some sensible reduction of the pollutions that are inflicting deadly pressure on our Great Bay resources.

Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and get out there and get you some.

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

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