Opening day results point to disappointing scallop season

11/07/2016 5:16 PM |

On the first day of Peconic Bay scallop season Monday, local fishermen and seafood retailers were lamenting what they called a rough start out on the water.  

While the windy weather was a factor in reaching some of the better spots, baymen said they mostly just weren’t finding the sort of volume they normally encounter on opening day.

The results so far indicate you won’t find bay scallops on too many restaurant menus this year or for very long.

“It will be a short and sweet season,” said Southold Fish Market owner Charlie Manwaring, who only had five bushels at his store by 1 p.m. Monday. “We’re going to have scallops, but it’s not going to be what it has been the last few years.”

By 3 p.m. Mr. Manwaring reported having 30 bushels, less than a quarter of what he had at the same time on opening day 2015, which was also considered a slow start.

Things weren’t much different a little farther west on Main Road at Braun’s Seafood in Cutchogue, where manager Keith Reda said there “seems to be a lot less scallops” than usual.

While New York State DEC harvest limits permit a maximum allotment of 10 bushels, Mr. Reda said most fishermen were coming in with only about half that for the day. Mr. Reda said the low returns should drive the market price up this season.

“Obviously demand is going to be the same, but supply is down,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll see the price go up over what you saw last year.”

Zach Auer, standing in the truck, unloads his seven bushels Monday. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Zach Auer, standing in the truck, unloads his seven bushels Monday. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Zachary Auer of Southold was one of several baymen who reported a low volume.

“My morning was rough,” he said as he dropped seven bushels off at Southold Fish Market. That’s much less than he was hoping for on opening day, he said.

Chris Hamilton of Greenport agreed his first morning was disappointing. He got to the fish market around 2:30 p.m. to drop off just four bushels.

“This year does not look good,” he said. “It’s definitely slow.”

Mr. Hamilton, who grew up fishing with his father, said he doesn’t know a specific reason for why this year looks so bad.

“Every year is different,” he said. “It depends on a lot of different things, but for opening day you would expect to see a lot more scallops out there.”

Workers shuck Peconic Bay scallops at Southold Fish Market Monday. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Workers shuck Peconic Bay scallops at Southold Fish Market Monday. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

Mr. Hamilton said he won’t give up yet and will continue to visit different spots this week.

“You have to look at it like a marathon and this is the first mile,” he said.

Some fishermen reported seeing a lot of juvenile scallops they could not bring in this year, but will be ready for next fall. Mr. Manwaring said another issue could be that it was windy this morning so a lot of the baymen were not able to go to the spots they wanted to.

Although Mr. Manwaring is disappointed with how opening day turned out, he’s hopeful Tuesday will result in a better turnout.

As of now, he’s unsure if he’ll even be able to sell the scallops wholesale to local restaurants this season.

“It looks like it will be more of a retail product this year,” he said.

With Vera Chinese

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