Scallops season off to a healthy start

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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