Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Great memories of shellfishing in a cleaner bay

By DICK PINNEY April 29. 2018 1:26AM
Sunset at Great Bay in Durham. (Lisa Martineau file photo)

Great Bay's fertility and ability to provide food for both people and fish and wildlife has been seriously affected by well-meaning people (we like to call them "do-gooders").

By mixing in chemical treatments to the sewerage that is discharged by municipalities surrounding the bay, the once-incredible shellfish and finfish that called the bay their homes have all but disappeared, and what is left, we're told, is not that fit to eat!

In our estimation, this is just another example of uneducated people with good intentions who can do more harm than good!

There are very few, if any, people who have had the lifetime exposure to the bay and its treasures. As children, we used to spend lots of time at our "Grammy Bradstreet's" camp on Fox Point that she always rented for the whole summer season. We waded the tidal waters looking for various seashell treasures.

And occasionally we'd join Gramp Bradstreet on a clam and oyster hunt that we'd do by using one of his boats and finding one of his dozen or more "clinker" outboard motors that would decide to run on a given day.

To say he was a tinkerer was a pretty good guess. To my knowledge, he didn't have a full time job but eked-out a small living by tuning pianos and other musical instruments.

It was a surprising day when the first motor that was attached to one of his rickety rowboats would run on the first try!

On some of our escapades, we remember that after spouting off a whole litany of words that we were not supposed to be exposed to, in a rage he'd take up the oars and row us to our destination. Letting his string of "bad words" flow off the boat without my so called attention, we'd arrive at our secret spot that, more often than not, did not produce enough clams or oysters.

In a huff, he'd pull the anchor and, often, rather than wear himself out trying to re-start the motor, he'd row us to a "new and better" spot - which almost was guaranteed to produce worse clamming or oystering than the spot we'd just moved from.

But it was still fun and quite an adventure for this preschooler to be out in the wilds and waters with him, regardless (and thankful) that we didn't know the meaning of most of those "bad words"!

Most often, he'd just let me wander, knee deep in the bay's warmish waters while he was digging his clams or picking up oysters, but when he'd hit the motherlode, he'd call me over and we'd help fill the pails. What fun for a kid like me who couldn't get enough of the out-of-doors!

The incredible amount of clams and oysters we'd bring back to his (rental) camp took us a couple of trips up over a steep banking to the open arms of Grammy Bradstreet, who laughed and complimented us on the good job we'd done.

Those were mostly the days of steamed clams and oysters on the half-shell but if I promised to do some kind of chore for her, she'd take the time and shell out some clams and/or oysters and fry them up. My mouth waters right now when thinking about them. And the homemade tartar sauce that we'd drown those fried clams and oysters in was just incredibly delicious.

I never identified why Gramp would get so funny and joyful after we'd had our bellies full but in retrospect, we now believe that it wasn't so much the great fried seafood but the several bottles of some kind of fluid in those green or brown bottles that added to his pleasure.

And Gram would often put a stop to his trips to the "fridge" when he got too loud and happy.

We were so privileged to have been able to be exposed to both those wonderful grandparents and the wonderful way they spent their summers under the wing of Mother Nature!

Today we live on a Great Bay that is a virtual desert when it comes to supplying edible shellfish.

We're not biologists but we've spent most of our life as professional outdoorsmen. Our take on the reason that Great Bay no longer supports this incredible and wonderful resource is that well-meaning people support the use of chemicals to treat the sewerage that have long fertilized these waters.

We'll have to admit that eating seafood that has been taken from water polluted by untreated sewerage was probably risky.

But to our knowledge and memory, we can't think of many, if any, people who were sick because of it.

But our observations are that now, with the chemical soup that is being added by the treatment plants, there's no seafood to worry about.

No clams. No oysters. No mussels, etc.!

Those were the days my friends.

We thought they'd never end!

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


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