BLUE HILL — Maine’s winter scallop season opened last Tuesday, Dec. 1, and divers working in Blue Hill’s Salt Pond and outer harbor — both closed to draggers — got a nice surprise.
According to Trisha Cheney of the Department of Marine Resources, divers in both areas were able to harvest their 15-gallon daily limit on opening day and the scallops they landed fetched an excellent price. Just how long the good news will last, around Blue Hill or elsewhere Downeast, is an open question.
Fishing got under way in good weather, and harvesters found the pickings “moderate to good,” Cheney said.
“The season is panning out the way we expected it to.”
About 60 boats opened the season in Cobscook Bay, but much of the fleet took advantage of moderate weather to fish in less sheltered “hotspots” along the outer coast. More of the fleet was concentrated in Gouldsboro Bay and around Machias.
Early on, Cheney said, the boat price ranged from $12.25 a pound to as much as $15.50 a pound for large, U10 scallops. U10 means that there are fewer than 10 scallop meats in a pound.
On Monday, Cheney said that from reports along the coast, the fishing had been “moderate to good.” While divers had early success around Blue Hill, Cheney said, there were “not a lot” of scallops elsewhere in Blue Hill Bay.
The opposite was true in Cobscook Bay, where most fishermen were able to get their daily limit within an hour or two. The scallops those fishermen landed, Cheney said, “look great.”
Whatever is happening far Downeast, by next week, some areas in Hancock County could be closed to further harvesting.
About 25 boats were fishing in Gouldsboro Bay last week and, Cheney said, their efforts took a toll on the scallop resource.
Based on pre-season surveys, DMR calculated that the harvestable biomass of scallops in the bay was 38,000 pounds. By the end of last week fishermen had already harvested 27 percent — a little over 10,200 pounds — of that resource. DMR generally closes areas to scalloping when 30 percent to 40 percent of the biomass has been harvested.
“It’s slowing down,” Cheney said. “We could close it on Monday,” Dec. 14.
Notice of the closure, if it comes, will be published and circulated to fishermen on Wednesday.
“A lot of guys know it’s coming,” Cheney said.