About this time every year in New Hampshire, the number of waterfront properties increases dramatically. Within the course of a few weeks, hundreds of new structures dot the lakes and ponds throughout the state.
What causes this great housing increase? Bob houses! These portable “shanties,” as they are called by those in the know, are wheeled or pushed onto ice-covered bodies of water by die hard fisherman and their friends and followers each winter. No one knows for sure where bob houses got their name. There are various theories: they could be named for the bobsleds that some used to bring their shacks out onto the ponds, or because “bob” is an old fashioned term for short or small (as in bobtail or bobbed hair), or because your shanty will be bobbing in the water if you leave it out on a lake too long.
Statistics show that 25% of New Hampshire fishing enthusiasts enjoy going out to fish regardless of the cold weather. Fishing on one of the state’s many lakes and ponds is a great winter pastime. While some people fish out in the open, many bring a plastic tent, the true (and experienced) fisher folk bring shacks out onto the water bodies. These shacks can be crude plywood constructions, or they can be small well-constructed shed-like houses that have carpeting, electricity, stoves, and even heaters and televisions. There are stories of some shanties that not only have lighting, but have crystal chandeliers. Chatting with friends and downing cold drinks (that don’t need any artificial refrigeration) is a great way to while away the hours while you wait for a pull on your line. After drilling holes in the ice with your auger, you can sit back and relax until the active cold weather fish – perch, pike, crappie, and others – tug your line to get your attention.
The bob house and ice fishing season is from ice-in, usually in December, to ice-out, usually in mid-April. Lakes under State trout and salmon management have an official season of January 1st through March 31st. But don’t venture onto the ice without checking with locals to make sure the ice is thick enough to support you and whatever you are bringing with you. All bob houses must be removed from lakes and ponds by April 1st, but of course, if it’s unseasonably warm, remove it – or lose it – before the ice cracks under the weight of your home and/or vehicle. Every year there are tales of lost houses…
There are a lot of friendly get-togethers among bob house fishermen and women, and they have a lot of fun out on the ice. For the more serious sportsman, there are dozens of competitive ice fishing derbies across the state, but the one that attracts the most participants is Meredith’s annual Great Rotary Ice Fishing Derby. As many as 6,000 anglers compete for dozen of prizes, including $ 40,000+ in cash prizes, and boats, trailers, and other fishing gear give-aways . This year Derby Weekend will be February 9-10. For details, visit the Meredith Rotary Club website.
If you want to try bob housing, check out the New England Sportsman’s extensive ice fishing website. The NH Fish and Game Commission has a good site with the regulations everyone should observe.
On the other hand, if you want to try to convince someone to come in from the cold and give up ice fishing, you may want to show him or her this short video.