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Video: Scallop Season is Still in Full Swing

This Thanksgiving Eve Day, forget about turkey for a second and watch this slideshow and video depicting what it’s really like to harvest Peconic Bay scallops in the middle of this plentiful season.

Scalloping is truly backbreaking work.

Since Nov.1, professional solo scallopers have been hunched over pulling dredges — some weighing up to 75 pounds when full — along the bottom of the Peconic Bay nearly every day starting at 7 a.m. until about 1 or 2 p.m.. The goal is to harvest as many of the delicious and lucrative as possible while the getting's good.

Charlie Manwaring, owner of , loves the challenge and earthy nature of the work.

"It's meditative," he said. "I have fun being outside and getting out of the shop."

Manwaring was one of about 15 baymen to take his small scalloping boat from into the middle of Peconic Bay to work the waters near Mattituck last Tuesday, when the sky and sea blended equally in a wash of overcast gray and the water remained like glass throughout the chilly morning hours.

Individual scallopers are allowed by law to take 10 bushels per day of scallops, which currently sell in the retail market for $18 per pound. The area of the bay that several licensed scallopers work on a daily basis is big enough for everyone, Manwaring said.

"Someone will always hit something somewhere," he said.

The metal baskets that the scallopers drag along the bottom are eventually filled with what Manwaring calls "spaghetti grass" – a thick and slimy underwater plant resembling a seaweed spaghetti. It protects scallops and other plentiful aquatic wildlife, ranging from scrumptious blue claw crabs, conchs, and chowder clams to what the fisherman deem as useless spider crabs and slimy pieces of yellow living sponge referred to as "monkey dunk."

Manwaring, 35, comes from a lineage of local baymen and started work at the Southold Fish Market 24 years ago. He took up ownership of the business in 1999 and never looked back.

"It was a big part of my life growing up," he said. "We always missed school the first couple days of scallop season so I could be with my dad helping out. I have two daughters now, and they will definitely be out there with me."

Manwaring said that most scallops grow to be about 18 months and some can live two to three years over the winter on the bay bottom. Though he said that baymen were harvesting nearly 100 scallops per dredge in the beginning of the month, they're now ending up with about 25 per pull only a few weeks into the season, which ends March 31.

"But it's good," he said. "You're your own boss. You get what you get out here. It's a day's pay."

Manwaring added that he's also been seeing more and more "bug scallops" — young scallops still maturing on the bottom of the bay. And that, along with the variety of life he dredges up and sorts through on his 18-foot boat every day, is a very good sign for everyone.

"Years ago, this was a barren desert wasteland out here," he said of the Peconic Bay system. "There was nothing on the bottom. Now there's all of this. It must mean the bays are finally getting healthy again."

Amy K. Martin April 02, 2011 at 08:20 PM
Good Interview & Charlie has a wonderful Seafood Market. It's great to see a local young family do such a wonderful job at keep the dream alive & well. we can all help... Anyone who's as happy to see the scallop health and abundance rebound as our baymen, can help out but thinking twice about what, how much & when you add chemicals on your lawns and properties. Please don't believe the Monsanto lies that the use of "Round-Up" and other manufacturer's clones are not harmful to us and our groundwater through both the produce that we eat and the run-off into our bays & creeks....Organic farmers are fighting back across the country and so too should we as a region where aquaculture is such a part of local heritage and a waning way of livelihood...Studies in creating artificial Eel grass to replace what we have lost on our bay bottoms is the wrong approach...I believe we need to Stop the sales & use of these & other herbicides in Suffolk County. Please don't use them in our gardens, farms or Vineyards...
Benja Schwartz April 03, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Sadly the Mattituck Cutchogue School Board reports that the district does not buy any pest/herbicides but accepts donations to use on the fields children play on. The issue is not the price to buy it is the cost to the environment, including impacts on human health.
Newcat November 09, 2011 at 12:36 AM
Charlie should be the person of the year. Vote for Charlie

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