BLUE HILL — The Downeast scallop season got underway this weekend and early reports are that the fleet was active, the fishing good and the price satisfactory.
Divers got the first crack at scallops in Blue Hill Bay as their season opened on Saturday. Draggers had to wait until Monday to get out on the water. According to Marine Patrol Sgt. Colin MacDonald, plenty of them did despite less than ideal conditions.
Saturday was a good day for diving. Though the temperature was chilly, scallop buyer Joshua Buxton said divers selling to him at the South Blue Hill pier all reported that there was no wind on the bay and that the water wasn’t rough.
Monday was a different story, with thick fog shrouding Downeast coastal waters.
“The weather’s not great,” MacDonald said, speaking from a Marine Patrol boat on Moosabec Reach shortly before noon on Monday. “It’s a little rough outside, but they’re still fishing.”
Around Jonesport, MacDonald said there were probably 20 boats dragging for scallops in Moosabec Reach. A little farther to the west there was more traffic.
This year, the waters of the scallop fishery’s rotational management area between Schoodic Point and Petit Manan Island, including Gouldsboro and Dyer bays, are newly reopened to fishing after being closed to allow the scallop resource time to rebuild. According to MacDonald, as many as 40 boats had their drags in the water in Gouldsboro Bay when the season opened this year.
There might well have been more boats if the visibility had been better. This year, the waters around Mount Desert Island, including Frenchman Bay and eastern Blue Hill Bay, are closed to fishing.
Department of Marine Resources regulations place a daily limit of three 5-gallon buckets — approximately 135 pounds of shucked scallop meats — on the quantity of scallops that may be harvested by a single dragger or diver. The limit is two buckets in Cobscook Bay.
Maine has three slightly different scallop seasons. West of Penobscot Bay, the season lasts 60 days, with divers getting an early jump and starting on Nov. 20.
From Penobscot Bay east to Cobscook Bay, the season is 70 days long, with divers starting on Dec. 1 and draggers Dec. 3
In Cobscook Bay, the season has the same starting dates as along the Downeast coast but lasts just 50 days for both divers and draggers.
During the season, harvesters are allowed to enter certain “limited access” areas only on specific days with the goal of preventing overharvesting of the scallop resource.
On Saturday, three divers working from a single boat in Blue Hill Bay landed about two buckets and a half after about six hours on the water. On Monday, MacDonald said most of the draggers working in the Moosabec Reach area would likely have harvested their limit by noon.
From what he had seen, MacDonald said the scallops coming out of the water looked to be reasonably large and of good quality. Coming ashore, he said, he was hearing that scallops should sell for about $12.50 per pound, “a pretty decent price.”
Diver-harvested scallops might fetch a couple of dollars more per pound, at least around Blue Hill Bay, according to chatter on the wharf on Saturday.
Although the fishing was “not phenomenal” on Monday, for the first day of a busy fishery MacDonald had no complaints.
“Everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.