For the state, inshore fishery, scallops are caught in different zones, close to shore along the coast of Maine. Daily catch limits vary slightly from zone to zone, as do the days on which a scallop fisherman can fish, but typically catch is measured in 5 gallon buckets. For example, in Penobscot Bay, the daily catch limit is three 5 gallon buckets per fishing day (or roughly 130#s), and fishermen can fish on four designated days per week. The Department of Marine Resources, which regulates the inshore fishery, closely monitors the fishery, taking surveys throughout the season. The season is closed on a zone by zone basis based on DMR’s scientific survey results.
The second scallop season is the Gulf of Maine federal scallop season which typically starts around April 1 and runs through the end of April. For Maine day boats, the daily catch limit is 200 pounds of scallop meats per day. This is a quota-based fishery, so when all the boats have caught all the Total Allowable Catch (or TAC), the fishery is shut down.
In addition to the strict catch and seasonality limits, there is also a size limit to scallops; the diameter of the shell must be 4 inches across in order for the scallop to be kept. There are a few other limited seasons, such as for diver scallops, but the majority of Maine’s scallops are landed through these two seasons.
Scallops are caught by towing a drag, which is essentially a metal bag that is towed lightly across the bottom. The “bag” is made up of metal rings that are 4” in diameter. Like the escape valves on lobster traps, the 4” ring lets the babies out, so that when the scallops caught are hauled up on deck, it’s largely a “clean” catch, meaning that most scallops taken out of the water are legal limit. Once scallops are landed on deck, each one that is close to the legal size is measured to be sure it’s legal; any that do not meet the 4” requirement, are thrown back. The rest are shucked one by one by the crew.