Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Great Bay system in need of cleanup

By DICK PINNEY July 20. 2018 2:32PM


Yesterday we watched a huge barge full of some kind of empty shells being pulled by a big tugboat into Great Bay. It dumped the shells onto the bay’s mudflats. This is part of a very sincere effort to revive Great Bay into the once very productive tidal area that produced tons of clams and oysters every year.

Clams and oysters were not open for commercial harvesting but there was a very large contingent of recreational harvesters who enjoyed their relaxation as well as a great bounty of shellfish.

If you don’t have a boat, it’s not that big a deal to find one of the several access points to the bay. Just beware of the fact that a bucket of clams or a bushel of oysters (the limit for takes) are quite a heavy load to carry back to your vehicle!

Some people overcome this long carry by wheeling a cart down to the shoreline while others launch their small boats for transporting their bounty and have just a small carry from their launching area to their vehicles.

Some of the popular tidal launching sites are Adams Point in Durham, Peirce Island in Portsmouth and the Squamscott River in Exeter, as well as the Lamprey River in Newmarket. Even though we live right on the shoreline of Great Bay, we’ll more often than not launch a small skiff off of our landing and save us the strain of lugging those heavy baskets of shellfish very far.

Because of our age, we don’t take limits of either clams or oysters for two reasons. We don’t need that many to eat and it’s too much of a chore to lug 50-pound baskets full of shellfish any distance.

Truth be known, we’ve now given up our personal clamming and oyster picking and rely on younger friends or relatives to supply us. It’s kind of a good swap for all concerned as it is a short haul up over our lawn from their boats.

The people that don’t use a boat but like to wade for their shellfish gathering only have to lug their shellfish up over our lawn to where they have parked their vehicle.

But we’re not very happy about the current conditions on Great Bay. The immense fields of tidal eelgrass have mostly gone, probably the result of the cities and towns that dump their sewerage into the Piscataqua River.

The sewerage is treated with chemicals rather than being ground up, and the chemicals seem to be the reason that our once huge eelgrass beds are just about gone.

That is a shame!

Eelgrass beds cleanse the water, absorbing much of the nutrition from the sewerage into their growth. And they also provide a stability to the current-moved mud and silt that allows the clams and oysters to flourish.

At low tide it’s easy to see that there are many bays and creeks that seem to be able to stabilize the flats and have done so for centuries unknown!

At low tide in some of the deeper channels it’s possible to walk through some of the drained channels and be just eye-level to the banks.

A word of caution here! Don’t take the walking along these channels for granted. Most of them have deeper holes that could put you almost completely underwater.

And when your feet are stuck a foot or so under the sometimes very mucky bottom, it’s not fun to get free and we’d have to say it can be quite dangerous, especially if you are alone.

Life is good! Stay in touch and tell ’em that the Dickster sent you (wherever!)

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


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