Nantucket Bay Scallops – “Nature’s Gumdrops”

Jeff Henderson Shucking His Daily Nantucket Bay Catch

Nantucket Bay Scallop Season is open and in full swing!! Despite the setbacks from Superstorm Sandy, our tough-as-nails fishermen were determined not to let the storm affect their harvest. To learn more about their story and these delectable sea gems, click below…

The famous Nantucket bay scallop season opened Thursday November 1st. The watermen idle out to the eel grass and wade through the shallow water to find the Nantucket candy. Normally they reach their limit in a few hours and are at the dock shucking by 11:00 am. Expectations are that total landings will be from 50,000 to 60,000 pounds this year. The window of opportunity will be the widest from opening day until Christmas. After the New Year, expect landings to be spotty through the end of March. Interesting fact… The watermen are not allowed to harvest Nantucket bay scallops once the air temperatures go below 28 degrees. By law the scallops must be shucked live on the docks. The scallops are harvested from 32 to 34 degree water temperatures. Once the Nantucket Bay Scallop hits the cold frigid wind of the North Atlantic the shock kills them immediately.  Therefore, the window of opportunity will depend on the Nantucket winter.

Today, the commercial scallop market depends mostly on the sea scallop (Pectin magellancus) because of its year round availability, size, price stability and abundant global supply.  The quiet giant among scallop connoisseurs is the bay scallop (Argopecten irradians).  These are smaller, in-shore scallops commonly sourced in shallow waters.  Landings range from Cape Cod to Narragansett Bay to Peconic Bay, with most of the landings harvested off the Coast of Nantucket Island.

Bay scallops are harvested whole and alive. The fishermen shuck them by hand.  The shell’s diameter is about 3 inches across; its color varies from brown to red to yellow and is framed in ivory white.  They are fairly uniform in size with most production in the 40-60 count per pound. has a few local watermen that have “Live” permits to sell live Nantucket Bays in the shell with roe sacks attached. These watermen will take pictures on their iPhone of their morning bounty on the boat steaming in and send them to our email. Thru out the season we will be forwarding the pictures and prices to our accounts for proof of “Morning Boat” harvest. The skippers will process all orders that day for nation wide Next Day service.

Like fine wines, the taste and flavor profile of Nantucket Bay scallops are influenced by type and location—the salinity levels, water temperature, plankton percent and water turbulence all impact the scallop’s profile.  The location of harvest has all the components to make this species superior to all other scallops harvested globally. We have no real hard core explanation why these bays scallops are so sweet. The only scientific fact that we understand is the healthy water conditions and eel grass environment the scallops thrive in is only indigenous this part of the world. The only other logical answer is…God made them this way!  The flavor profile cannot be matched anywhere.

The fishing season starts after the summer molting period and product peaks from November to February.  The market price usually swings north by January with production decreasing due to the colder New England weather.  Our local Nantucket watermen are anticipating a good season.

The price of these Nantucket delicacies will be higher than the sea scallop.  However, these bays are royalty among the scallop family—“The Crown Jewel of the Sea”—with their sweeter than lobster flavor, silky texture and pearly white color.  Real fresh bays should have elastic, but firm springiness and smell sweet and salty.  They finish with a seaweed langoustine flavor and a hint of a sugar.  They are excellent raw and require only seconds to cook or sear for unforgettable flavor.

Because of their excellent quality, scarcity and high price, many inferior scallops are pawned off as bays.  The farmed Chinese scallop (Argopecten irradians) and the calico (Aequipecten gibbus) are the two species most often sold as bay scallops.  These two products are a great value for their price point, but in no way shape or form should be substituted for the real thing.  Calico scallops are smaller than the real bay scallops with average count sizes in the 100-150 range and have a pale white, opaque color.  China bays are previously frozen and clearly have a processed smell of preservatives with a soapy feel and artificially shiny color.

Joan (Jeff’s Wife) With Her Daily Catch

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