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11/12/16 9:00am
11/12/2016 9:00 AM

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The fall harvest is winding down on the North Fork. Grapes have been picked and are fermenting, pumpkins have been carved and apples have been turned into delicious pies and warm cider.

But for our local baymen and seafood lovers, another highly anticipated harvest has just begun — the opening of bay scallop season.

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11/07/14 12:01pm
Gary Joyce of Aquebogue (left) and Ed Densieski of Riverhead sort through a catch. They said they often throw away more empty scallop shells than healthy keepers. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Gary Joyce of Aquebogue (left) and Ed Densieski of Riverhead sort through a catch. They said they often throw away more empty scallop shells than healthy keepers. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Early Monday morning, under cover of darkness and beneath a star-lit sky, Ed Densieski and Gary Joyce boarded their custom-outfitted boat, dressed head to toe in vibrant all-weather gear.

Unfazed by the blustery chill, the pair headed out through Southold Bay, with Brick Cove Marina at their backs.

It was the start of their 16th scalloping season and, as Mr. Densieski said, “There’s only one opening day.”  (more…)

11/04/13 9:00am
11/04/2013 9:00 AM

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.

06/22/12 7:00pm
06/22/2012 7:00 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Cornell Cooperative Extension and Empire State Development Corporation staff toss adult scallops into the Peconic Bay off Cedar Beach Friday afternoon. The state recently awarded a $182,000 grant to the project.

The folks working to rebuild the stock of Peconic Bay scallops have a new best friend in the state government.

Researchers at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Peconic Bay scallop restoration program, based at Cornell’s Cedar Beach, Southold, marine laboratory, had a special visit Friday afternoon from Kenneth Adams, commissioner of the Empire State Development Corporation. The corporation awarded a $182,000 grant earlier this year toward the continuing scallop project.

Lead researchers Dr. Stephen Tettelbach of Long Island University and Dr. Chris Smith of Cornell said they’ve used the funds to expand the hatchery and hire additional employees to help grow scallops to full size in the lab.

“We’ve increased production in our hatchery,” said Dr. Tettelbach. “We plan to grow the scallops from spring to market size in the fall. This is the first time it’s being done in New York State. Other states are selling cultured scallops.”

Dr. Tettelbach said the scallops, which are smaller than wild scallops, will likely be sold whole in the shell.

“It’s a different way of marketing, a different market niche,” he said.

Since scallops are short-lived, usually living no more than two years, their contribution to the population is limited to one spawning season.

Dr. Smith said program researchers have also used grant funds to expand their long-line grow-out system in Orient Harbor. In that system, scallop larvae collect on a mesh surface inside an aerated bag that protects them from predators. Initially, researchers were using the bags, known as spat collectors, as a tool to quantify the number of scallops in the bay. They’re now using them as nurseries for scallops cultivated by humans.

“We’re now using Japanese techniques where you use spat collectors to produce numbers of scallops,” he said. “It’s increasing our capability of spawning and growing scallops.”

Mr. Adams said his office had received marching orders from Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide $785 million in grants by asking regional Economic Development Corporations for advice on the most crucial projects in their areas, instead of having the state dictate where the money would go. More than 700 grants were awarded.

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and a former head of the Long Island Power Authority, brought the scallop project to Mr. Adams’ attention.

“This is an incredible, historical, vital natural asset,” Mr. Adams said of the scallop fishery. “Fisheries are a very important part of the regional economy. How would I know about this project sitting back in Albany?

“It really worked well,” he added. “I’d like to think this is the beginning of a long and healthy relationship.”

“I think scallops brought us over the line,” Mr. Law said Friday afternoon at a ceremony on a barge overlooking the laboratory. “Everybody had high tech, but nobody else had scallops.”

Dr. Smith estimated that the scallop industry, which had a negligible economic value for years after the brown tide destroyed the fishery in 1985, brought $3 million in economic activity to the region in 2010 after his research team helped to rebuild the fishery. He estimated the 2010 numbers were about 10 percent of the value of the industry before the brown tide hit.

Dr. Smith said his group hopes to continue building the number of scallops in the bays until there are three to five scallops per square meter on the bottom.

“I think we’re within a few years of that,” he said.

“Can you do lobsters next?” asked Mr. Adams.

“Lobsters are a whole different story,” said Dr. Smith.

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04/07/12 2:00pm
04/07/2012 2:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | From left, Ed Densieski of Riverhead and Dave Cullen of South Jamesport harvests scallops in Orient Harbor.

It’s hard to top last year’s scallop season, but the fishermen who hung in there plying the waters these last several months say they weren’t disappointed and expect great things again next year.

“It was a great season, the best season since I started,” said Ed Densieski of Riverhead, who scallops part-time from opening day in November to the season’s close at the end of March. “There are plenty of bugs [baby scallops] out there. I’m thinking next year’s going to be a great year.”

Mr. Densieski said that while opening day was “a zoo” at scalloping hot spots, he saw an average of two to three boats out each day throughout the season.

“I just moved around. I’d work one spot and then another,” he said. “We were lucky to keep finding some. It wasn’t cold. There was no ice to deal with. It was a great year.”

Billy Hands of Orient, who scallops in his free time when he’s not working at the Orient Service Center, agrees.

“I thought it was good and plenty to eat!” he said. “There are lots of bugs out there right now and as long as the summer doesn’t produce a brown tide and water temperatures stay normal, then it should be a great season in November 2012.”

Researcher Stephen Tettelbach, an LIU professor who works with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Peconic Bay scallop restoration program, said he’s heard mixed reports from baymen this year. He added, however, that he believes many more people were scalloping this year than last year, after word got out that it was expected to be a good year.

“On opening day, the numbers of baymen on the water were in the hundreds,” he said. “I think there was more effort expended this year. It may have spread it around a little more than previous years.”

Mr. Tettelbach said the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has not yet released the number of scallops caught in calendar year 2010, so it will be quite some time until this year’s catch is quantified.

He said he saw many bugs on the bottom last fall and has heard the same from baymen. Bugs are immature scallops less than one year old. Scallops are large enough to be harvested in their second year, after which they die.

“There’s a real buzz about lots of bugs out there. People are seeing very high concentrations,” Mr. Tettelbach said.

He added that one scalloper he knows recently reported that the scallops are fatter and healthier looking than usual for this time of year.

That may be weather related, he said. Because of higher water temperatures, scallops were able to feed on algae during February, when they’re usually in a semi-hibernating state. That’s good for the harvest, but how it might affect the shellfish’s post-season survival is another matter.

“The crunch time that we’ve seen for scallops dying off naturally occurs in April,” said Mr. Tettelbach. “Their metabolic demands are increasing and there may not be as much food around as they need at that time. That seems to be a real critical period of the year.”

Mr. Densieski said he worries that warm temperatures could lead to damaging algae blooms like the brown tide, which nearly wiped out the scallop population in the mid-1980s.

Mr. Tettelbach said there’s no way of knowing how the scallops might do in the short term, particularly this month.

“Time will tell whether that happens at the same rate this year as in the past,” he said.

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11/02/10 3:59pm
11/02/2010 3:59 PM


TIM KELLY PHOTO Shortly after scalloping season opened at dawn on Monday a number of boats had their dredges in the water at the southern end of Orient Harbor.


Scallop season started with its usual blast of interest this Monday, but most boats were working western waters, giving little attention to Orient and other traditional spots farther east.
Southold Fish Market owner Charlie Manwaring said Tuesday that he expects a steady, long season, though not the extraordinary season that many fishermen he had spoken to before the season started had expected.
“Yesterday was really good, but guys are not catching much today,” he said. “There are a hell of a lot more guys out there than last year. I’ve seen guys that haven’t scalloped out there in 10 to 15 years. Everybody’s hyped up that there’s a lot of scallops. It’s probably the most they’ve seen in a few years.”
He said that he bought 150 to 175 bushels of scallops on Monday and had taken in 40 to 50 bushels by 3 p.m. Tuesday, about the same amount as last year.
Mr. Manwaring said that he expected the retail price, which on opening day was around $17, would rise steadily as fewer scallopers are out working on the water.
He said that most of the scallopers were working around Robins Island, just south of Cutchogue, and farther west.
Bayman Pete Wenczel caught his commercial limit of ten bushels of scallops on Monday, but he said that the number of scallopers out on the water dropped dramatically on Tuesday.
“The only real hot spot is by Robins Island. There were 70 boats there yesterday and 40 to 50 today,” he said on Tuesday afternoon. “The price yesterday was uncertain. I guess we’ll find out for sure today. They cant set a price until they know the volume, here and up on Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, which also opened Monday.
Mr. Wenzcel said that he’s hoping to earn $12 per pound, before shucking, for the scallops he brings in this week.
“I think there’ll be scallops to catch for the rest of the year, but people won’t be getting their limits,” he said. “I think we’ll be getting five to six bags for a while. It’ll be an OK season, about the same as last year, but concentrated around Robins Island.”
So far, Peconic Bay scallops have made it onto few restaurant menus, but that is bound to change by the end of the week. At the Cutchogue United Methodist Church, diners were gathered early Tuesday evening in anticipation of the church’s 36th annual scallop dinner, with seatings at 5, 6 and 7 p.m.
Tweeds Restaurant and Buffalo Bar manager Anthony Coates was at the restaurant Monday afternoon when the first eight tired baymen brought in their scallops Monday afternoon. He bought 84 pounds of shucked scallops.
“It is an annual rite of passage. All these characters are out there at the crack of dawn,” he said. “They hit it hard yesterday. Usually we’re lucky to get 20 pounds at a time.”
Tweeds lets the scallops’ natural flavor dictate how they are prepared.
“We do them pan seared with a beurre blanc sauce, lightly flashed in the pan with butter and flour,” he said. “They have such a succulent flavor, that’s all you need.”
He said that he was expecting diners to come out of the woodwork to taste the first of the season’s scallops.
“They’re on scallop watch. This time of year they’re tuned into that,” he said of the restaurant’s patrons, whom he said had been calling all afternoon making sure they got a reservation for the first night’s catch.
“They were worried there would be an off chance we’d run out.”
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