More than a week into scallop harvesting season, East Hampton fishermen dredging for bay scallops have said it might be the best in more than a decade.
East Hampton fisherman Dan Lester said he and his brother Paul had the best opening day in the Peconic Bay that he's had in along time, and the scallops have been plentiful throughout the first week. "This was the first time we caught our limit on the first day since 1994," Lester said.
Scallop fishermen must have licenses and are limited to ten bushels per licensed man a day, as well as twenty bushels per boat. Scallop season runs through March 31. Lester said that all their scallops from the first day were sold out in two. The Lester brothers shuck their own scallops at the dock and sell all of their catch by local word of mouth.
Recent years haven't seen nearly as many scallops. Why the comeback? "Fish run in cycles," Lester recalled his grandfather, a local fisherman, saying about the fluctuation in fish populations.
Photographer Tara Israel, who is working on a project called "(a)Bonac" where she photographs locals, spent the opening day on the boat with them photographing and learning about scallop fishing. "The shucking scene was pretty amazing. People were dropping in all afternoon to buy the fish, or to help shuck," she said.
"Kids would come through when they got home from school. Old timers were razzing each other for not shucking as fast as they used to. Everyone talked about how they planned on preparing the day's scallops for dinner."
Captain Harvey Bennett, owner of the , said he's heard from fisherman that there are scallops everywhere. "It's the first time I've seen scallops in a long time at $20 a pound."
Lester is asking $20 per pound, but eventually, he said, it could go up to $25 per pound as the season continues.
Bennett said the plentiful season doesn't just apply to scallops. "We're having bountiful seas," he said, adding the striped bass fishing is the best in years.
But at , they've looking forward to scallop season. Charlotte Klein-Sasso, an owner who sells scallops from local baymen and those on the North Fork, said, "Local bay scallops are hugely popular this time of year. They have a unique flavor which is incredibly sweet and lively, really tasting as if they just came out of the water, which they did."
For cooking fresh bay scallops this season, she offered some of her cooking suggestions. To prepare them simply, she said, "a light dusting in seasoned flour and then sauteed quickly."