Local baymen have some more underwater acreage from which to gather clams and oysters this winter.
State Department of Environmental Conservation officials announced last week that from Jan. 15 through April 15, commercial and recreational fishermen can harvest shellfish from about 52 acres of Mattituck Creek. Up to now it’s been illegal to harvest or sell shellfish from that area.
The acreage will remain open so long as no more than three inches of rainfall is recorded per day for seven consecutive days, state officials said.
John Bredemeyer, president of the town’s Board of Trustees and a member of the shellfish advisory committee, said Mattituck Creek has good-sized hard clams and a very healthy oyster population, “so for both classes we expect to have a good harvest.”
This is an area that was routinely closed to baymen throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s, and its progress didn’t come simply by the work of Mother Nature.
Since about 1995, the then newly elected town Trustee Jim King began testing area creeks previously closed by the DEC in hopes of identifying specific sources of pollution. Using the collected data, he and the other Trustees began working with town engineers to mitigate stormwater runoff coming in from nearby roads and homes, since it was the runoff that was found to be affecting the creek’s water quality.
“The project we did was on Bayview Avenue on the west side of Mattituck Creek. The town put in multiple dry wells along the side of the road,” Mr. King said. “They put a whole drainage system in there.”
The added drainage system improved water quality enough for the DEC to start opening the creek on a conditional basis. It has been re-opened a number of times since 2000, DEC officials said.
Mr. King, who is still a Trustee, continues to do sampling while the creek is open, checking its water after rainfall and snowy conditions, he said, adding that a number of people make the testing program possible — from those who transport samples to Stony Brook, to the owner of Braun Seafood in Cutchogue, who continuously donates ice to keep samples cool on their trip west.
Mr. Bredemeyer and the committee have extended Mr. King’s efforts, sampling waters in the Cutchogue creek complex, which includes East Creek, Mud Creek and Broadwater Cove. These Peconic Bay creeks have been closed to shellfishing since 2004 due to water quality concerns.
Their hope is to get Mattituck Creek and the other creeks re-certified as regular shellfishing areas for baymen.
“There’s a benefit to everybody if we can get some of these creeks reopened,” Mr. King said.
For updated information regarding the status of Mattituck Creek after a rainfall, call Southold Town at 765-3912.