BLUE HILL — After the initial rush to capture a glut of scallops in reopened areas, local fishermen continue to report high catches. But many fishermen are skeptical this abundance will last to the end of March, when the season closes.
It opened Dec. 2.
“The reality is there are a lot of scallops,” said Ed Monat, who has dived for the sought-after bivalves for more than 20 years. “The other reality is that it won’t take very long to catch them.”
Early reports from the Marine Patrol and area fishermen confirm many fishermen catching their daily limit in just a few hours. That would be 180 pounds of the meat, which is removed from the shell onboard most vessels before being brought onshore to sell.
“Unless you’re late, I don’t see why you’d be out past 10 [a.m.],” said Todd Goodell, who recently returned to scalloping after stopping 10 years ago. Goodell reported catching his limit in “just four or five tows” some days, or in around one hour, in Blue Hill Bay and Gouldsboro. He drags for scallops with his lobster boat.
Goodell says he began fishing for scallops this year because of the way the last season ended. Early in 2012, a concentration of scallops in upper Blue Hill Bay just below the legal shell size of 4 inches drew fishermen from around Maine and prompted an early closure of the area.
Goodell was among the many fishermen who anticipated those scallops would be in large numbers and a legal size when the season began and boats started dragging for scallops in that area for the first time in years.
Pressure was further increased on Blue Hill Bay due to other areas in Maine being closed to scallop fishing. Those closures stemmed from new scallop regulations that divided the state into three rotational zones, closed at different times to allow portions of the fishery to recover.
“I’m not completely happy with how it’s set up, but it’s been a blast the last three weeks,” said Goodell. “It’s a nice change of pace from packing bait and pulling traps.”
At $10 to $16 per pound, fishermen are receiving as much or more for their catch than in recent years. While that bodes well for the immediate future, many are skeptical the rotational zones will help the fishery recover to its earlier productivity some decades ago.
“I used to be the only guy out there,” Monat said. “Now there are a lot of guys out of Jonesport, from all over the place.”
He added, “Don’t get me wrong, I think the closures are a great thing. But it’s not like it used to be. We used to catch them all over the place.”
While the reopened zone had created small pockets of scallops, the majority of the coast is still depleted and beyond the reach of the closures, he said.
“People feel there are a ton of scallops, but it’s just a small area,” Monat said.