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.

11/29/12 8:00am
11/29/2012 8:00 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Charlie Manwaring of Southold Fish Market with a fresh batch of Peconic Bay scallops.

Scallop season didn’t begin with its usual bang the first Monday in November thanks to Hurricane Sandy, but fish markets and restaurant menus are stocked with the cold-weather shellfish in time for the holidays.

Before the hurricane, scientists who study bay scallops had been finding many empty shells, known as “cluckers,” in scallop grounds that had promised a bumper crop.

Then, when the hurricane hit, the state DEC pushed off opening day to Nov. 13 due to potential water contamination because of the storm’s flood tide. Many areas in the eastern Peconics were opened sooner after the DEC determined that the water was clean, and the few scallopers who ventured out found plenty of live scallops among the empty shells.

But Phillip Tocci, Riverhead’s “Clam Man” who runs a shellfish stand on the north side of Route 58, said many baymen have told him they’re having trouble selling the scallops they have, because of public concern over whether they’re safe to eat.

“The water is fine. The scallops are fine,” he said this week. “I have people asking constantly ‘Is the water all right? Are the scallops all right?’ The public is not after them like they usually are.”

Mr. Tocci added that many seafood restaurants were damaged in the storm, putting a dent in the wholesale accounts baymen rely on.

He said he hasn’t been catching his limit of 10 bushels of scallops per day, but he has been pulling in enough to meet the market demand.

Southold Fish Market owner Charlie Manwaring said Tuesday that, while there was a big scallop die-off due to unknown causes earlier this year, there are plenty of scallops still in the water.

“Certain areas were closed after the hurricane, so not everyone was in one area opening week,” he said. “They’re doing really well in certain areas. It’s just hit or miss. I think we’ll have them right through to March 31,” the official end of the season.

Mr. Manwaring said baymen are seeing “tons of bugs,” or baby scallops, which will reach harvest size next year.

He said the retail price this week is about $17 per pound, down from $19 when the season opened, although he expects the price to rise again as the supply thins out later in the season.

“Some areas just opened up, so we have a little more product,” he said.

Mr. Manwaring said baymen were lucky that many of this year’s scallops were in deep water, since they are often thrown up on shore by hurricane surges if they are in shallow water.

He said the boats belonging to the 15 to 20 baymen he buys scallops from were also safe during the storm.

“We really got lucky out here,” he said.

Recreational scalloper Ed Densieski of Riverhead missed the first few days of the season, which opened in some local waters on the day of the nor’easter that hit shortly after the hurricane.

“It was nasty,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t go opening day.”

Mr. Densieski said it appears there was a scallop die-off in Cutchogue Harbor and that by the time he got to the scalloping grounds off the Orient Causeway on Nov. 10, “a lot of it was picked through” and he didn’t find any.

“There was definitely some die-off this year, but in some spots they were huge. They were the size of marshmallows,” he said, declining to disclose where he found them.

“If you want to put the time in, you’ll get some,” he said.

byoung@timesreview.com