Fishing for Scallops

How to catch and clean scallops.

| May/June 1972

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    Scallop dredge
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    Scalloping by sail is a beneficial and workable alternative -- dragging back and forth with wind a beam or keeping the wind on your quarter. Remember, though that sailboats and powerboats maneuver differently, and that you are encroaching on the professional's domain.
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    Fishing the shallows with a net or basket.
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    Opening and cleaning a scallop.

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 Each small bay scallop yields a single nugget of light, opalescent meat that is unsurpassed by any sea food for flavor and delicacy. Saute'ed or lightly broiled, they are rich and rare gift from the generous shore. the opening of scallop season in mid-autumn spreads townfolk on the water like oil spills, and into a light winter professional fishermen are dragging their limit through the snow flurries. In New England's shallow waters, the bay scallop is a prime cash crop.

The general home shellfishing license usually allows a weekly scallop catch of one bushel. A separate commercial license, however, allows a daily bag limit per license aboard, two licensees per boat (fee for the Buzzard's Bay aree is around $40, state and local). The shellfish wardens who enforce the codes are as cunning and stealthy as the old rum runners, so exceeding the limit is risky, as well as bad ecology.

Scallops seem to be the only bivalves with the ability to move about readily, and hence, may be found on many kinds of bottom at many depths. They seem to be herded by the action of wind, tide, and current, and so the native has the advantage of close local knowledge Three solutions: spot fish until you find the grounds; inspect the bottom before the season with a watercress or a diver; follow the fleet and advice of the friends you must make among the professional fishermen... no article or book can offer more than direction and an overview—the fishermen can show you how it really works.

A dredge is an important piece of commercial equipment and an impressive investment. It is shackled to heavy nylon line and dragged behind a skiff along the bottom, until full, emptied, and towed again. Hauling it onto the deck at the end of a drag is wet work, cold in the late autumn, and foul weather gear—especially the rubberized bib-overalls and neoprene gloves—is a part of your investment.

Non-commercial scallopers fish the shallows at low tide from a skiff or in high waders, using a dip net or a quayhog rake with a basket.  

Getting the scallops is only half the job; they must be shucked. Only the adductor muscle is eaten, the rest is discarded (or used as fertilizer, organs and degradable shell-available in quantity for the hauling away from professional scallopers. The scallop is held firmly and a dull round-bladed (~2") knife is inserted just forward of the hinge - it is twisted to break the hinge. The blade is slipped under the organs at the rear and, with blade and thumb the organs are flipped forward, separating from the muscle, which is left to be detached and dropped into a pail with a scrape of the round blade.  

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