GLOBAL WARMING has certainly had an effect on our ice forming on Great Bay! For much of my “growing-up” years it was almost automatic that we’d spend New Year’s Eve out on the ice at “the Bay,” fishing for those small but delicious sea-run smelt.

After achieving “drinking age,” we took that fishing pretty seriously and didn’t waste that precious new run of smelt by getting “half cocked” out on the ice! We were very serious about this early-season ice fishing and didn’t stand for any interruptions by those that did choose to celebrate out on the ice, which could include often picking up several dozen empty beer and booze bottles along with other “clutter”! We didn’t want their mess to complicate our being allowed to cross people’s private property to gain access and often park our vehicles on their land.

We built our relationships by showing that young men often cleaned up other peoples’ mess left behind on the ice. And we often shared our bounty of smelt with some of the shoreline property owners who relished that treat and appreciated the gift of not just our fish but often thanked us for taking other people’s trash off the ice for disposal.

Back in those years, the smelt anglers were often Navy Yard shift workers who would schedule their working hours around the best fishing times when the tide was right. This was pretty serious business for some of the workers who were struggling to make a dent in their home food cost as well as deserved rewards for those that were having a hard time making ends meet!

Because we were mostly using private lands to get out on the ice and for parking our vehicles, we were also in the habit of cleaning up other people’s trash on our way off the ice. It was sort of our way of cementing our relationship with those shoreline landowners who we made sure were alert to what we were doing on their behalf (not to mention our own behalf of being welcome to use their property for access!)

It must be hard for people that were not outdoorsmen to understand why us smelt anglers would sacrifice hours in a warm bed to endure the shivering cold of the Great Bay ice but those in the know realized that in our stove-warmed fishing shanties we were just as comfy as they were inside their warm beds and we were probably (not for sure) having more fun than they were!

Boy, then came global warming! Big time and quite fast! Sometimes Great Bay’s ice that would sustain the weight of fishermen would be scarce and there were a couple of years when safe ice never really formed.

The sad thing is that global warming has grown to the point where days on Great Bay’s ice are scarce and on some years it just never froze up to the point where safe access was possible and the ice fishing season was a complete “wash-out!”

Sadly, these years are becoming more prevalent than the years when the Great Bay ice would support the ice fishing.

It’s really sad for me and those of my age who have known the wonders of the great experience that ice fishing on “the Bay” offered! It was a “way of life” for hundreds of ice-anglers and often the cash earned by catching and selling your bag of smelt would make a meekly financed Christmas into a real success!

Those were the days my friends! We thought they’d never end!

Dick Pinney’s Guide Lines appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at