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Meager haul on opening day for scallops

The town dock at Congdon Creek on Shelter Island has long been a gathering place for bayman departing before dawn on the first Monday in November — Opening Day for bay scallops.

But this year, most of the adult scallops died in the heat of the summer as they have for the past three years, likely killed by a combination of disease and high water temperature. In a cruel twist, last week, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation temporarily closed several prime scalloping spots due to the recent downpour and the threat of harmful runoff.

On Monday morning, the handful of Shelter Island boats with culling boards installed were still in their slips. Only one had dredges aboard, and at 8:30 a.m. it still hadn’t moved.

Shelter Island bayman Sawyer Clark goes fishing most days, but not for bay scallops on Monday. He’s been hearing about the die-off of this year’s adult scallops since August, and held out no hope for a miracle.

“I fished today, one of my friends went scalloping for three hours and has two scallops,” he reported.

Charlie Manwaring, owner of Southold Fish Market, opened the entire day’s catch of bay scallops single-handed, in a fraction of the time it took bayman Tim Sweat to harvest them. An entire day of battling the wind and empty dredges produced two bushels of scallops for Mr. Sweat to unload at Southold Fish Market.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” the bayman said. “It was a very long day.” 

Charlie Manwaring, owner of Southold Fish Market opening the entire day’s catch of bay scallops. (Credit: Charity Robey)

“He’ll be rewarded for it,” said Manwaring.

A customer stopping by said they were the first scallops he’d seen anywhere, and that it was just good to see scallops on opening day.

“It’s more than I had last year,” Manwaring said. “But I’m having tuna for dinner.”