For Ed Densieski of Riverhead, opening day of scallop season is better than Christmas or his birthday.
Every year for the past 11 years, the former Town Councilman has been out at one secret spot or another in the Peconic Bays at sunrise on the first Monday in November, waiting for daylight, when he throws his dredges down and see if the jewels of the Peconic Bays have returned in abundance to local waters.
This Monday, his secret spot wasn’t so secret. He was scalloping with a fleet of about 60 boats in Orient Harbor, just south of the causeway until about mid-morning, with mixed results. By 11 a.m., most of the boats had left to search for better scalloping grounds.
By 10:30 a.m., Mr. Densieski and his faithful crewman Dave Cullen of South Jamesport had caught about nine bushels of scallops.
Each commercial license-holder is allowed to take 10 bushels of scallops per day, and with two licensed men on board, they were allowed to take up to 20 bushels total for the boat.
Last year, a banner season for bay scallops, they’d chosen to put their dredges in in a cove on the north side of Robins Island on opening day and had caught their limit. This year, they weren’t sure they’d do so.
“It’s not quite as good as I expected,” said Mr. Densieski as he piloted his Garvey work boat “Outlaw” out to the harbor to set his six dredges one last time. “I’d say it’s about 70 percent of last year.”
With each haul, about one or two mature scallops were mixed in with a dredge full of spider crabs, empty clamshells, rocks and seaweed, all dumped out on the culling board used for sorting the catch that lay across the beam of the boat.
“Where did you hide them? Under your culling board?” asked a passing scalloper who was equally frustrated with the slim pickings.
Over at the New Suffolk boat ramp just before noon, two boats were waiting at the dock to haul out.
Vinnie Martin of New Suffolk, who is a recreational scalloper, caught his limit of one bushel in the cove on the north side of Robins Island. He was taking his grandsons, Jared and Cameron Martin, out for their first ever scalloping experience.
“It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of hard work,” said Jared. “You feel like Jell-O at the end of the day.”
Kevin Terry and Michael Conklin of Southold had also been scalloping in the Robins Island cove. They caught 10 bushels by noon, and were heading home to shuck them until well into the night.
They said there were about 50 boats working the waters off of Robins Island, about the same as last year.
“We got eight bushels before 9:30, but it took us two hours to get two more,” said Mr. Terry. “That’s the easy spot. Now we’ve gotta go out and find our secret spots.”