Fresh start: Baymen happy with early harvest

JULIE LANE PHOTO |Getting fresh: Jeff Reiter opening scallops Friday morning at Bob’s Fish Market and Restaurant.

Baymen spoke of a good kickoff to the scalloping season, delayed by more than a week by Hurricane Sandy.

Normally the season opens the first Monday of November, but historic storm surges canceled opening day, slated for Monday November 5 until Tuesday November 13.

Usually if the opening is canceled, it’s because of  a rain out. If there is more than three inches of rain in a 24-hour period, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will call off opening day because the deluge will cause extreme cases of runoff into the waterways, triggering a health hazard.

“With Sandy, it wasn’t so much rain but the exceedingly high tides, going over parking lots and into storm drains,” said bayman John Katula, who has been working the waters for more than 30 years. “God knows what could have fallen into the bays.”

But Katula, along with several other baymen said were in “so far, so good” agreement. “I scalloped in Coecles Harbor the last couple of days and got my five bushel limit pretty quickly,” Katula said.

Brothers Jeff and Earl Reiert said they had no complaints, going out Friday before dawn and catching their limit in four hours. Overseen by their father, Bob, in the back room of the family business, Bob’s Seafood Market on North ferry Road, Jeff  Reiert was busy shucking and cleaning the bivalves at noon, to be ready for sale today and tomorrow for $18.95 a pound.

Shelter Island Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar said there has been 406 town shell fishing licenses issued this year at $10 a license. Last year the town issued 372 licenses.

The clerk couldn’t explain the spike this year, but Mr. Katula said hearsay might have something to do with it. “When you scallop you’ll see signs of what’s going to happen next year, and word gets out,” he said.

Last year when baymen were harvesting, they noticed an unusually large amount of “bug” or  or immature, scallops. “So people think this year is going to be great, so they get licenses,” Katula said.