It’s the day North Forkers wait for all year — the first day of Peconic Bay scallop season, when dinner means delectable, sweet scallops, sauteed with butter and a hint of lemon — the day that can mean a booming season for fishermen, or a disappointing bust.
Unfortunately, according to fishermen and fish store owners, today’s first day signaled a disheartening kickoff to the season.
“It was okay,” said Andrew Myslborski, who set off with high hopes soon dashed this morning. He returned home with 11 bushels, less than last year. “It wasn’t a banner year like last year,” he said.
When asked what he thought the reasons might be, Myslborski shook his head. “It’s just nature,” he said. “We were very lucky last year. But it is what it is.”
Charles Manwaring, owner of the Southold Fish Market, agreed. The first day, he said, was “not so good. Not as good as last year.”
Manwaring estimates that he received about half what he did on the first day last year, not an auspicious start on a day when the weather was beautiful and conditions ripe for scalloping. Even fewer scallops will be brought in on days when weather conditions are less than favorable, he said.
Last year, Manwaring told SoutholdLOCAL that a cold winter and cool summer led to the abundant harvest.
Not so this year.
“We’re going to have scallops,” he assured.”But it won’t be like last year.” Some fishermen who came in this morning, he said, hadn’t reached their limit.
Fewer scallops will mean higher prices for those who can’t wait to savor the delectable morsels, all agreed.
Fishermen will be out “grinding,” he said, but Manwaring predicts that the scallops will be fewer and run out faster — with less of the harvest headed from Maine to Virginia, and with daily deliveries to New York City, which was what occurred last year.
Instead, Manwaring said locals will get the bounty first, with less for restaurants at far-flung locales. Shuckers were still busy today, working on the first batches of scallops.
“Mother Nature gives us good years and bad years,” he said. “It is what it is.”
But the impacts will be felt by many, Manwaring said. Not only fishermen, but those selling gas for the boats, truck drivers, shop owners, and those who have invested in equipment will all feel the blow of a less than stellar season. “It’s a trickle down effect,” he said.
And, with few scallops on Shelter Island or in the Shinnecock Inlet, as was evidenced today, Manwaring said a flood of fishermen will be headed to the Peconic Bay, many who have seen the return of scallop season in recent years and invested heavily in new dredges, making competition even more fierce. “Everyone’s trying to make a buck,” he said.
But, just as this year’s season is disappointing so far, Manwaring said fishermen will likely find some pockets of scallops — and he said next year, the harvest could once again be bountiful.
“It’s life,” he said.
At Braun Seafood in Cutchogue, Ken Homan said, “It’s a little too early to tell. A lot of guys are still not in yet. It seems a little off from last year.”
Some fishermen have not yet hit their limits, Homan agreed, but said they might still be scouting for prime spots.
“It takes a couple of days to shake out,” he said.