The scoop on scallops

By: Damian Clayton

September heralds the beginning of scallop season in our region and some reports suggest some of the traditional beds are not as well stocked as we have seen in the past. However, scallops do move around and establish new beds all the time. Traditional beds like Tiri, Iris Shoal (Kawau) and the Mahurangi should be ok but the bed outside South Cove (Kawau), The Noises and at Motuketekete seem to be smaller.

Diving is of course the ecologically friendly method of collecting these tasty shellfish. Divers may take a limit for up to two people who assist by operating the boat and, when a trip is extended over more than one day, a quota may be taken for each day. But like all shellfish and crayfish, the catch must be kept in a state which can be measured when taken ashore – in other words in the shell. The fishers must also be able to satisfy a fisheries inspector that the different bags were taken on different days.

Scallops are found in harbours and on sand or mud bottoms out to about 50m deep. Like most other sea creatures, scallops start life as a free-swimming embryo, but after about 48 hours they attach themselves to a rock or structure on the bottom where they live until reaching a few millimetres in size, when they drop to the seabed. Like all bi-valves they are filter feeders, sitting on, or just under, the sand with their shells slightly open, straining water to extract plankton.

Some people get into trouble with the fisheries inspectors because they do not realise that scallops have to be measured and counted as they are brought on board, or in the case of divers, on the seabed. In extreme cases, a boat may be forfeited. Occasionally scallops are washed ashore in a storm and they may be collected but the rules in terms of size and numbers still apply.

Snapper are occasionally found to have scallops in their stomachs, which have been crushed in the shell by their powerful jaws so perhaps trying your luck around dawn and dusk at this time of year and near a scallop bed could produce good results. Typically we are looking out for work ups as the spring snapper move in but early season these can be short sporadic events and frustrating to chase down. Watch the area between Tiri and Kawau in about 40–50m at this time of year as the big male fish move in to establish home for spring.

For those fishing closer in then softbaits cast into the shallows will work. New Penny has been a good colour. Try to keep the noise down though as the fish can be easily spooked. Bait fishers should be doing pretty well in close to shore too with a good steady berley trail and a selection of baits. Fresh or frozen mackerel is a good choice along with bonito and bullet tuna. Again keep the noise down and be prepared to sit it out for a few hours and you should do pretty well.

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