Isobel Shows Us All How To Handle A River Monster

All right, firstly, the kids and I like to watch River Monsters together. So kudos to Jeremy Wade for making a globe-trotting fishing show with enough storyline and drama to have broad cross-generational appeal. And for having the coolest job in the world. Now to stick it in his ribs a bit. I couldn’t help thinking as we watched a recent episode, “Vampires of the Deep,” covering sea lamprey, that he was laying on the melodrama overly thickly. Is the lamprey a tad gross and scary with that sucker mouth and probing watchmacallit that drills a hole in your skin so it can suck your blood? Sure. But Jeremy looks like a tough guy and he’s fished for some big ugly critters all over the world. So you get a sense as he’s grimacing and Vincent-Price-spooky ¬†intoning his way through the episode that he’s being coached by a producer to ham up how horrid it is to be in a fish trap with them (he’s wearing waders), or have one stuck to his neck:

Anyway, last Saturday I popped over to Amoskeag Fishways with David (10), Isobel (6) and Gabe (2) and my visiting mom (none of yer business), and it turned out it was Sea Lamprey Appreciation Day. (Yes, my urban megalopolis-dwelling friends, we have Sea Lamprey Appreciation Day here, and that’s just one of the manifold reasons I love our New Hampshire home.) The Fishways includes a small museum with aquariums, terrariums and displays about life in and around the Merrimack River, a subsurface viewing station into a section of the fish ladder that ascends the dam, and a room for presentations. It’s all quite nice even aside from a special program – on this day we saw huge carp and a couple of shad in the sub surface window.


But we also got a lecture on lamprey – not eels, all cartilage, external gill slits, suck blood, anadromous – and the kids got to touch them. And with all due respect to Jeremy, there were a lot of kids, and I didn’t see any of them get the least bit squishy about it.

Here’s our 6-year-old Isobel gently providing one of them a proper chiropractic adjustment:


And lamprey wrangler and local fisherman and writer Clay Groves – who is on a quest to catch and eat every kind of freshwater fish in New Hampshire – stuck a lamprey to his arms, fingers, a couple of times just to show the kids it was no big deal. He’s eaten them, too, but it didn’t sound like they were particularly tasty.

Good thing we didn’t live in Manchester’s early days, or the kids would have had to get used to chowing down on these. They were so commonly consumed, we learned, that they’d once been referred to as “Derryfield Beef.”

Anyhow, I share all of this as a recommendation for the Fishways, which is a very cool little place to stop in at in Manchester, fishing with kids anywhere, which is a pure delight, and of course, River Monsters.