The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

From the November 4, 1932 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Those who think of the Island as a vacation spot and that alone would be amazed to witness the activity that the opening of scallop season kicks into full swing. Scallops in their boats first thing in the morning, setters at work cutting the catch in boathouses and shacks later in the day, and buyers, local markets and shippers engaged in distributing the catch – these are the branches of industry.

In the past, the scallop fishery was not as important Island-wide as it is today. Katama Bay has always been known as Edgartown’s first national bank because of the shellfish it provided, but some other towns didn’t place as much emphasis on the scallop.

Now Oak Bluffs is getting into scalloping with the largest pond company in Sengekontacket, the lagoon is to be improved by the ongoing dredging operation largely to increase scallop production for Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs , and the island seems to realize the importance of this fundamental principle. industry for which our waters are so well suited by nature.

There is probably never a real overproduction of scallops, but there can often be under-consumption. It is in the interest of the Island to encourage by all possible means the appreciation of this shellfish and an increased demand from the mainland public.

The gray, long-fingered streaks of dawn on Tuesday morning found the Edgartown scallop fleet, much of it, on their way to port, eager with first-day fever to try the dragees at Cape Pogue Pond. The wind and choppy harbor forced some of the boats down to Katama Point, but the Mecca by far the greatest number of shellfish pilgrims was the pond, where the advanced dope had found the biggest.

The dope was right: the scallops were big and heavy, the best quality we’ve ever had there, opening a gallon and better by a bushel. Many of the open ones were filled with spawn. Not only in the pond, but in all the waters of the municipality the ratio is good, with a variation in size of course. Caleb’s Pond and Eel Pond are also well stocked. The scarcity of grass indicated the early skimming of most of the heavy cream, with a few patches of that slippery rock grass protecting the retreating bivalve. Some of the men reported that the grass started to grow in many places and grew to three or four inches in length.

The season truly opened that day, with anglers from Vineyard Haven and Chilmark starting on their own beds. The law in Nantucket was also canceled the same day, although reports from the neighboring island indicate a bad season.

At Edgartown, it was estimated that a fleet of seventy-five motorboats were at work, in addition to a number of rigs. The number of permits this year, due to the depression, hit a record high of 150.

With the limit this year set at five bushels per man, the best fishing showed the five bushels going up the side in two to three drifts, with each of the six drags filling two clear buckets. The result was that the band soon found themselves in the tedious opening work, starting at 7:30.

At Vineyard Haven several boats tried the lower harbor for the first time and reported very thin catches. The few scallops found were the usual size and fetched the best price of any scallop on the island on opening day, with $2 to $2.25 paid on the spot. However, there is no indication that there will be scallops outside Lagoon Pond. The opening, which has been tightly blocked by sandbanks for the past year, has not allowed seed scallops to move into the harbor in large numbers. The deepening of this opening will soon be complete and some believe that if the weather remains warm some small scallops may enter the harbor and grow in size.

At Chilmark a number of boats went up into Menemsha Pond, where they found some very good shellfish. But the report from returning fishermen was that a week would be enough to clear the beds. After the first day, unhappy with the price offered, Chilmark fishermen postponed the season in that town indefinitely.

Gay Head won’t be fishing on his own until the 14th.

The opening day price of $1.50 offered by both George Eldridge of Eldridge Market and Captain St.Clair Brown, buyer for Sam Cahoon, proved a great disappointment to anglers, considering the quality and size of catches. The buyers offered, to mitigate the low figure, the fact that there was no money anywhere for the scallops to buy them from the wholesalers. Continued warm weather and the opening of many continental scallop beds are other contributing causes. In this regard, it is interesting to note the steady decline in opening prices over the past five years, with each year showing a decrease as follows: 1931, $2 and $2.25; 1930, $3, so unsatisfactory that many shipped; 1929, $3 and $3.25; 1928, $3.50 and $3.75.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox

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