11/04/13 5:36pm
11/04/2013 5:36 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Ed Densieski of Riverhead and Gary Joyce of Aquebogue scalloped in waters off Robin's Island, taking home six and half bushels of scallops opening day.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Ed Densieski of Riverhead and Gary Joyce of Aquebogue scalloped in waters off Robin’s Island, taking home six and half bushels of scallops opening day.

Peconic Bay scallops are here, and opening day’s take ranged from “optimistic at best” for some baymen to “more solid than ever” for others.

Heading out into state and town waters on a windy opening morning, baymen were greeted by the East End’s first extended freeze of the season, with wind blowing temperatures in the low 30s as they searched for scallops.

Nathan Andruski, president of the Southold Town Bayman’s Association, said he was able to catch the 10 bushel state commercial limit, although it took him longer than he had anticipated.

He said high winds impacted his ability to shellfish, forcing him to choose a different location than he had originally planned.

He was joined by about 15 other boats in Southold Bay, where he dredged for scallops from sunrise at about 5:30 to 11:30 a.m.

“Today was one of the harder days. The earliest I have ever been done is 9 or 9:30 a.m., but there was nothing easy about this morning,” Mr. Andruski said. “I am optimistic at the best.”

Mr. Andruski said his dredge was filling up quickly – but not with the scallops he was hoping for. The waters he was fishing in was filled with seaweed and other debris.

And another issue – more than half the scallops he pulled up were dead, he said.

“For every live scallop, I probably had two or three dead ones,” Mr. Andruski said, though didn’t want to speculate as to what the cause could be.

Ed Densieski of Riverhead and Gary Joyce of Aquebogue boarded their 20-foot boat and headed into bay waters about the same time as Mr. Andruski, but were only able to catch about six and half bushels total.

The men joined about 10 other boats in the North Cove of Robins Island, where they said the water was surprisingly clean. They did not have issues with bay bottom debris or dead scallops – but were somewhat disheartened with their load.

“The volume we have been catching has gone down over the past four seasons,” Mr. Joyce said. “After [Hurricane] Sandy was even better than this.”

The two been scalloping together for the past 13 years.

Each of the men said the scallops they were catching were a relatively large size, easily surpassing the 2-1/4 inch length required by the state DEC.

“They are excellent. Bigger and better, and more solid than ever,” Mr. Joyce said.

By 2:30, the men found their way back to Brick Cove Marina in Southold to unload.

Southold Fish Market owner Charlie Manwaring said for the first day of the season, the catch has “been a little bit off from previous years.”

“We have plenty of scallops right now, but it’s probably half as much as I had last year from opening day,” Mr. Manwaring said.

He said many of the men he spoke with were unable to meet the bushel limit, but added that the wind may have affected things.

Southold Fish Market in Southold and Braun’s Seafood in Cutchogue will be selling the freshly caught scallops for $18 a pound, according store officials who added that prices may change depending on supply and demand.

11/04/13 9:00am

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | A freshly shucked scallop on the half-shell.

Sunrise today marked the official opening of scalloping season on the North Fork.

Area baymen are heading out into state and Southold Town waters in search of the Atlantic bay scallop, found mostly in the small bays and harbors of the Peconic Bay, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Ed Densieski, a baymen from Riverhead said, “you never really know what to expect until the first day of the season.”

He has gone out scouting bay waters for baby scallops, and said he was hopeful it was going to be a good season.

According to the Peconic Estuary Program, during scalloping’s height about 500,000 pounds of bay scallops a season could be harvested from bay waters – equaling almost $2 million in dockside value.

But the scallop population was soon decimated following the first appearance of brown tide in 1985.

The sought-after shellfish has since been making a comeback over the past decade, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

In Southold and Riverhead Town waters, commercial fisherman are limited to five bushels of scallops per person per day.

Two or more people occupying the same boat may take not more than 10 bushels of scallops per day for commercial purposes.

Recreational fisherman can harvest a limit of one bushel per person per day.