The first weeks of bay scallop season at Southold Fish Market used to be a joyful time. In those days, owner Charlie Manwaring’s biggest problem was finding enough qualified shuckers to handle the sudden bounty of bivalves.
This year, opening day for scallop season was Monday, November 1 and by the end of the day Manwaring had a scant two bushels of scallops from a lone bayman. He had no trouble opening them all by himself and was planning on having tuna for dinner instead.
Over at Braun Seafood Co., the scene was similarly scallopless. Not one of manager Keith Reda’s regular suppliers had a scallop to sell.
What he did have were Mexican bay scallops, “previously frozen and very high quality.”
There is no reason to think the same thing won’t happen again. Baymen will simply move on to the next thing.
Manwaring said striped bass has been very good for his supplier this whole year.
“They were supposed to go away, but they have been great, in spite of more restrictive slot limits,” Manwaring said. “The lobsters have also been good.”
Reda pushed Braun’s striped bass and blackfish.
“Blackfish is a wonderful fish, I call it the Peconic Bay’s answer to grouper,” he said. “Baymen can take up to 25 fish a day.”
They are also still catching striped bass in the Sound and Plum Gut. He predicted striped bass would be going strong through Thanksgiving and maybe even until Christmas.
Another bright spot is the abundance of smaller fish such as porgies and butterfish that can be gutted, scaled and cooked whole by grilling, or in the case of butterfish, by steaming them.