Hours before small children donned Halloween costumes for trick-or-treat, avid scallopers donned their waders to scoop up the first fresh Vineyard scallops of the season. Lagoon Pond in Tisbury opened for the much-anticipated recreational scalloping season Saturday.
By 10 am that morning, there were already dozens of scallopers on and in the water, hauling scallop drags and dip netting, eager to get their bushels before the commercial season opened on Monday, Nov. 2.
“It’s been busy,” Tisbury shellfish constable Danielle Ewart said. “It’s beautiful weather, and the water is calm and clear. This is an ideal morning for scalloping.”
The temperature that morning was pushing 60°, with a clear sky and prominent sun. The low tide made for easy navigation — maybe too easy.
“The tide was so low I found myself out by that boat,” Damon Aldrich of Vineyard Haven said, referencing a boat out toward the middle of the pond. “I said, Well, it’s time to start making my way back.”
Mr. Aldrich was sitting on the beach with his wife, Meredith, sifting through their bushel and throwing back seeds — scallops that haven’t matured enough. The town regulation for a good adult scallop is a well-defined growth ring, or a small nub about 2.5 inches up from the hinge of the shell, which is the state regulation. The presence of a well-defined growth ring confirms that the scallop is at least a year old. The seeds thrown back will spawn at the end of spring and be ready for next year’s scallopers.
“When in doubt, throw them back,” John Sofranko said, sifting through his own bushel a few feet away.
“There is a lot of seed out there,” Ms. Ewart said. “So people have to be careful of that.”
The three scallopers had been at the Lagoon since 9 am, prepared with their peep sites, or view boxes, and dip nets.
“We have a ton of dip netters in Vineyard Haven,” Ms. Ewart said. “I like dip netting; it’s kind of like an Easter egg hunt.”
Mr. Sofranko said it was easy work collecting the scallops, unlike clamming, which requires digging underneath the sand.
“They are just sitting on the top and you just pop them up,” he said. “It’s really easy.”
Mr. Sofranko, an Oak Bluffs resident who bought both a Tisbury and Oak Bluffs scalloping license, was collecting scallops for the first time on Saturday. When asked what inspired him to scallop that day, he pointed to his bushel, then to his wife, Carol Lee.
“The cook,” he said. “She’ll turn these into special things.”
“We’ll try some ceviche,” Ms. Lee said. “Then toss them with a little garlic and shallots, and some breadcrumbs on top for a little crunch.”
Mr. Aldrich shared a similar goal.
“We’re going to eat good tonight,” he said. “And then we’ll freeze some for later.”
And with that, they were off, ready for some dry clothes and a fresh seafood meal. (Great scallop recipe here: bit.ly/scallop-recipe.)
Although some towns on the Cape harvest scallops, it’s a tradition to scallop on the Vineyard.
“It’s special over here,” Ms. Ewart said. “We have a long history of scalloping in the towns, and we try to keep that tradition alive.”
Scallops are available in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah waters. Edgartown’s recreational scallop season opened on Oct. 1 for dip-netters. The commercial season opened on Nov. 2. Lake Tashmoo will open recreationally on Dec. 5, and commercially on Dec. 7. The outside waters of Oak Bluffs opened for recreational scalloping on Oct. 17 and commercially on Oct. 26. The Oak Bluffs side of Sengekontacket is closed to scalloping this season to protect seed. Chilmark opened Menemsha and Nashaquitsa Ponds for recreational scalloping on Nov. 1, and commercial scalloping on Nov. 16.
Recreational and commercial licenses are available at town halls, and the cost varies depending on the type of license and whether you are a resident or a nonresident.
In Tisbury, a family permit costs $40 and a nonresident family permit costs $400. Commercial permits are only available to residents, and cost $350.
Recreational permit holders are limited to scalloping once a week. Scallop limits vary by town and license. In Tisbury, a “family mess” is one bushel basket, which comes out to about eight pounds of shucked scallops.