As the bay scallop season begins, reports and forecasts are in from the five Island towns that have a fishery.
And if the predictions from shellfish biologists are accurate, scalloping in Edgartown, Chilmark and Aquinnah will be solid this year, while Oak Bluffs and Tisbury may be a step off from last year.
Edgartown shellfish constable Paul Bagnall said this week that the crop in Cape Pogue Pond looks healthy. Recreational season began in Edgartown on Oct. 1, and last weekend there were quite a few family scallopers out, Mr. Bagnall said. Most were using dip nets and a few were snorkeling, he said.
There are also scallops in Sengekontacket, although not as many as at Cape Pogue, Mr. Bagnall said, but the Sengie scallops are bigger. “They’ve shrunk over the years,” Mr. Bagnall said, referring to the size of the scallops in Cape Pogue Pond. “Maybe it is the food. Maybe it is the rusty tide in Cape Pogue.” Mr. Bagnall was referring to the annual persistent appearance of an algae bloom not harmful to humans called cochlodinium. The algae stresses shellfish.
Mr. Bagnall said no dragging for scallops will be allowed in Cape Pogue until Saturday, Oct. 20. All areas in town open for commercial season on Oct. 22.
Aquinnah will have a considerably better season this year than last, said shellfish constable Brian (Chip) Vanderhoop. The commercial season never opened last winter in Aquinnah. Mr. Vanderhoop said when the recreational season opened last week in his town, three fishermen went out and came back happy.
“Anything is better than last year,” the constable said. Typically the commercial season is not opened in Aquinnah until later in the season; larger scallops are the reward.
Chilmark selectmen will decide next week on the dates for scallop season. Shellfish constable Isaiah Scheffer predicts a fair to good bay scallop season this fall and coming winter. Like at Cape Pogue, he said the scallops are on the small side but he is counting on late season growth.
Tisbury has bay scallops but fewer than last year, according to shellfish constable Danielle Ewert. Recreational scalloping will open on the south side of the harbor and outside of town ponds on Saturday, Oct. 13; commercial scalloping begins on Monday, Oct. 15.
Lagoon Pond has the same opening dates in Oak Bluffs and Tisbury. Recreational scalloping opens on Saturday, Oct. 27; commercial scalloping begins on Monday, Oct. 29. Commercial season daily limit is three struck bushels.
“I think we will have an okay year,” said Ms. Ewert, predicting that town fishermen will harvest 1,000 bushels. “We did 4,000 bushels a year ago and it was a really good year,” she said.
There is good news in Lake Tashmoo, where there is a decent set of adult scallops. That pond will be restricted to dip netting, Ms. Ewart said.
In Oak Bluffs Sengekontacket opens for recreational bay scalloping tomorrow. The limit is one bushel per week. The commercial season opens on Oct. 22, with a limit of three struck bushels per day.
Shellfish constable David Grunden was frank in his assessment. “It won’t be nearly as good as last year,” he said. “We had close to 3,000 bushels of bay scallops last year, most of it coming from Lagoon Pond. If we got half of that this year, I’d be ecstatic.”
As for the size of the scallops, Mr. Grunden said: “Lagoon Pond are on the small size, while Sengekontacket are pretty good.”
But shellfish constables are always cautious with their predictions because often the bay scallop season brings surprises. Thick eel grass can move off the shellfish beds, and suddenly there are scallops where previously there were thought to be none.