Because there was no wind on opening day of scallop season, sound traveled well over the harbor. Three men working their way in across the rocky shallows were talking about how they had made out. “Well,” one said. “Don’t believe what you read in the paper.”
I knew exactly what he was talking about. With reports from Peconic Bay poor, there was a sense that the scallop crop in town waters would be bad as well. Jon Diat, who writes the “On the Water” column for us, had made a few test runs near Sag Harbor with dismal results.
The morning of opening day, I was conflicted about whether or not to go. The air was warm, the wind still, and the tide falling. I, like a lot of people apparently, figured, “What the hell?”
It was slow going at first, but once I got out far enough, I found scallops just beyond where the look-boxers in waders could safely reach. Wetsuited divers like me were doing better in the cold, clear, deeper water where mats of codium, or Sputnik weed, were scattered here and there to provide cover. Scallops, like chickens, seem uncomfortable out on the open flats; or maybe the gulls simply manage to pick more of them off there. I filled my dive bag right up to the point at which I could no longer swim with it and headed in.
Another diver was also getting to the beach when I arrived at the shore. He was carrying what looked to be a full bushel, and we nodded at each other as if to acknowledge that we had lucked into the good stuff but were in no way going to tell anyone about it. Two friends of mine came out of the water next, similarly trying to keep their hauls out of sight.
Much of the credit for this fine day goes to the shellfish hatchery, which seeds town waters with young scallops, clams, and oysters every year. Many, or maybe even all, of what would be dinner for several nights to come had begun their existence in its tanks.
Normally the hatchery stays out of the news, but in the past year or so it was the focus of conflict over a town plan to relocate its operations to a new central facility at a town-owned property off Gann Road at Three Mile Harbor. As will happen, some neighbors objected and the idea remained just that for the time being. I haven’t decided how I feel about it one way or the other.
We all may have our complaints about living here, but a place where we can still go out on the water to get our own shellfish isn’t bad by half.