A fall tradition on the island will be renewed on Sunday as Nantucket's recreational scalloping season opens at dawn.
Tara Riley, the town's shellfish and aquatic resources manager, has been surveying the Nantucket Harbor and Madaket Harbor with her team in recent weeks, and said those taking to the waters Sunday with push rakes or snorkels should do well.
"Nantucket harbor, anywhere from Fulling Mill to Abrams (Point), those areas are going to be good for adults (scallops)," Riley told the Current. "Madaket also looks good for recreational season, definitely. Some spots are accessible from shore, and some spots may take more effort with snorkeling and wading out deeper."
To participate in the island's recreational scalloping season, residents must obtain a shellfish permit button from the town of Nantucket and have it on display while scalloping. Those buttons are available at the town's Public Safety Facility at 4 Fairgrounds Road at a cost of $35 for year-round residents and are free for those over 60 years old. Non-residents can apply for a one-week permit at a cost of $50, or one year for $125. All recreational scallopers are limited to one bushel basket per week, and the days are limited to Wednesday through Sunday.
"I think the family season will be fine," Riley added. "I think if people poke around in the usual spots, they’ll find what they’re looking for. Maybe not as easy as it was last year in Madaket, though."
What Riley has noticed in the ongoing surveys by her team at the town's Natural Resources Department, is an abundant amount of seed (juvenile) scallops throughout Nantucket Harbor. These scallops will be next year's crop, she said, and the population is giving her team cautious optimism that their efforts at the Brant Point Hatchery are truly paying off.
"We found the mother load - over 500 per meter squared - just piles," Riley said. "Kind of like we saw in Madaket last year, but way more."
There are so many, in fact, that Riley and her team are considering moving some amount of the seed scallop population from town out to Madaket Harbor.
"These are next year's adult scallops, so it makes sense to spread it around," Riley said. "It seems like there's more than enough scallops to take and spread over to Madaket. One hundred percent - it's more than anyone's seen. The 500 per meter squared that we found, to put that in perspective, the highest site we've surveyed since 2006 was 44 per meter squared. So that's the good news. This whole discovery of all the seed around the harbor is a huge gift."