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Finding scallops

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Sep 24, 2004

Any one have any tips for finding scallops?

I think they keep themselves buried in the sand/gravel so how do you start to find them? Is it best just to root around everywhere or wait to see one on the surface then dig around that area for more.

I was in yesterday and could see lots of dead shells but nothing to eat!

They either sit flat side up in the ripples of the sand or sit like a clam in a little hole. Look for the fronds around the shell and just grab them. Scallops and flatfish... that was yesterdays catch.
I've caught a few thousands of scallops over the years and have spent some time commercial diving for them. All of this is done with scuba, although I've caught some small numbers snorkelling. First thing is to find the area with scollies in it, If they've never been fished they'll live in 30 ft provided there not much swell. Even in deeper water swell is a no no . Anywhere with west atlantic swells mean no scallops live there. They don't mind tide and in fact they need it as they are filter feeders. So bays are not too good. Empty shells can mean scallops but it might just be that some one shucked their catch there. Local knowledge is a good start but where they're fished (as with my local beds) then you gotta go deep. Local commercial scallop divers work 50m (160ft), 3 tanks every day,using air but also using nitrox and decompressing on oxy - heavy stuff. Good news is they reproduce quickly and grow fast, so keep looking. I found a little corner in 35 ft at low tide that gives 6 doz a tank - don't tell anyone. Watch out for dredgers they kill the seabed and wipe out scallops for years.
Scallops can sometimes be easy to see and sometimes be invisible. It mainly depends on the bottom. Mostly they bury and if they're feeding the top shell is slightly open. On sand they stand out well but on mixy shingle and weed they are harder to see especially when closed. You sight fish and don't poke around like you do for flatfish. It's chicken and egg syndrome, the more you catch the more you see then the more you catch etc. It's getting the first few that's difficult.
So try to get some local knowledge and good luck.
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Wanny welcome to DB, It may help if you identify your location.
For all I know you may be in California where the Scallops live attached to rocks.
Here in the E. Atlantic you can find them as Dave said on sandy ground, sometimes in Marl and sometimes in heavy mud.
It is really a case of getting your "eye" in after a while you can spot the telltale semicircle from a good way off.
I have got hundreds but never on tanks always Freediving.
I have had good success on muddy ground searching under sea lettucen where they are often hidden away in shallow areas that aren't dredged.
Not so sure about the tide thing Dave one of my favorite places is inside Holyhead harbour with no tidal currents at all but I see your point. The place Ive caught most of mine is in about 35m of water, to deep for me to freedive and tidal, always in slightly silty sand, you know those dives that are only memorable through their lack of interest! The only redeem being the occasional piece of Rose coral :( or sould it be :)?? still scalops are so much nicer than a crab or lobster ;)
I have it too easy down here in sunny Dorset! They are everywhere.. I always fish/hunt/collect on a single breath. I have no problems with any other methods its just I feel that I have tried hard to get this thing and that goes a long way to justifying its death..... or does that sound full of shit!!!! Free seafood...mmmmm.
Does that mean "Free" Seafood or seafood for free? Either way scollops are way nice mmmm
Thanks for the tips. I am in Jersey so Old Man Dave's advice should hold - although I have never trusted a guernsey man before.

They all sound pretty deep, I will mainly be looking whilst out spearing not on scuba.

thanks for the tips, there is so much useful information here and I need all the help I can get!

Hi Crappo, Old Donkey here, (Channel Islands joke).
Yeah I'm afraid you're in a fairly heavily fished zone but CI is a good area for scallops. Jersey boys were working the Minquies and making mega catches (500+ per diver per day) but thats a major expedition. Locally you could look to work inshore of any offshore beds as you get overspill. A good tip is to look for any areas where the commercials dump their smalls (scallops not undies). This is often inshore and they quickly grow.
Alison was mentioning catching in harbours and that's true here too but I suspect the beds are more artificial than natural. Again it's people dropping smalls (especially dredgers - even sailing dredgers of long ago) and then they multiply protected by boat traffic and fishing restrictions.
Happy huntin'
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Hi everyone
I thought someone out there might be interested in a brief history of scallop diving (in Guernsey) as told by me. Actually it’s not as narcissistic as it seems, as there are lessons to be learnt by all.
About 40 years ago there existed huge beds of scallops around Guernsey’s coasts. We used to occasionally catch them on our long lines intended for ray. They were so thick on the bottom that the snood line with its baited hook would contact an open feeding scallop, which would then snap shut. As you pulled in the main line the snood slid through the scallop and then the hook caught on the shell and up it came. Sometimes in a good area (bad for us) we caught scallops every 4th or 5th hook. Then we started diving.
We used single skin neoprene suits hand made by us with the help of a local dressmaker who imported the material. Tanks were 1800psi steel spiro’s and reg’s Royal Minstral twin hoses or if you were lucky the new 2 stage single hose Snark 2. Lucky being when the bloody thing didn’t explode on you at 60 ft.
Diving in 50 ft we filled 2 hessian coal sacks with scallops in 10 minutes. Hardest bit was pulling the things up and into the boat. Good beds had one scallop per square foot. We got about 1shilling and sixpence (pre decimal English pounds) per scallop. Remember that back then £20 per week was a good wage. We were going to be rich. News spread.
There were very few divers but lots of conventional fishermen. One of them bought a dredger. Within a month there were up to 20 dredgers working less than a mile from harbour. The biggest 50 ft, towing 8 dredges and with a 5 man crew shovelling scallops through power riddlers to size them. On shore gangs shucked the catch. Sea Fisheries said, “No problem, there are scallops down to 600ft on the edge of the continental shelf. This is a minimum 20-year sustainable fishery”. Despite finding further stocks of the smaller queen scallop in deeper water within 8 months it was a bust. You couldn’t give a dredger away. Nothing to catch so no value. Incidentally this is the same Sea Fisheries who say slaughtering breeding bass by the 100-ton wont harm stocks (another thread).
So what about us divers? I can still see the seabed now. Ploughed field crossed with a desert. However, Sea Fisheries were right about one thing, there were scallops out deep, too deep even for dredgers. Gradually they recolonised the barren waste and we were waiting. Now we had 8mm nylon lined wet suits, new larger tanks and non-exploding reg’s. It would never be the same but the dredgers were gone. The single remaining one (to this day) banned to deeper waters. We worked the shallows. More people started diving. We went deeper. We got the new SOS mechanical deco meters, known as bendy meters for good reason. More divers. Go deeper. The first bends. The first paralysed diver. The first dead diver. People were getting bent weekly. The local government is so concerned they buy a de(re)compression chamber to try to save the idiots who are not surviving the heli trip to the navy chamber in Portsmouth.
30 years on the scallop is only available in commercial quantities in deep water. 4 or 5 more or less full time divers work 50 metres 300 days a year. Recently, one of them with over 40 years experience was 50% paralysed for 3 weeks but made a 90% recovery and now doesn’t dive. Another is 80% deaf and dives part time. Another had brain damage but still dives. At least 5 others have died and a similar number are disabled to some degree. The rest of us pulled back and stick to non-commercial quantities in the shallows (Under 30 metres).
I’m not sure what you’ll take away from this ramble but take my word for it, greed can drive you to take chances you shouldn’t. This year I’ve sold my commercial fishing licence, so hopefully Old man Dave will become Very Old Man Dave one day.
a pretty grim story - some worrying parallels to the current bass issue and closed eyes and ears of the fisheries dept. nothing is sustainable in that scale insuch a small area.

so it seems I can expect the odd one within freediving depths but that is it.

just need to crack this bass thing now!
Don't get me started on the Sea Fisheries.. anyway, Dave your erm, secret scallop spot... didn't you say it was by the thing by the coast ? You did tell me the EXACT location but I seem to have forgotten it- any chance you can remind me ?!

(Foolish to mention it as you know I'll be trying to twist your arm over the weekend !)

My own personal scalloping experience is finding one in a local bay and cooking it with some venus/artemis clams (Clausinella fasciata / Dosinia exoleta) - very very tasty.

Apparently there are 3 kinds of scallops :
Variegated Scallop (Chlamys varia)
Queen Scallop (Aequipecten opercularis)
Great Scallop (Pecten maximus)

Wanny - I started a thread on bass last year as I was clueless about them then (and now to a degree :)) - might be of interest - have a look for "sea bass advice" or something like that. I learnt alot from this forum about bass and landed a few last season (they have been noticabley shy of me so far this season with Charlie landing a 9 pounder, Fabio (our guest spearo) landing 3 at about 3 pounds and one at about 10 pounds....).
People , please be aware that Scallops in Ireland at the moment are testing very high for ASP -Amnesiac Shellfish poisoning.
As well as making your "movements" somewhat rapid and unpredictable (bad enough) you can also become forgetful and confused, I kid you not.
This is particularly common here in the SW at present and I believe commercial harvesting has stopped.
Maybe guernsey doesn't have it in Scallops , It does in cockles though
Old Man Dave said:
Empty shells can mean scallops but it might just be that some one shucked their catch there.
Sorry to revive this old thread but I only just discovered it. Thought Old Man Dave's history of Guernsey scallop fishing was interesting & poignant. Seems like cod is currently on the way out with other fish soon to follow.

Just one comment on "empty shells" I thought I had seen several empty shells out diving one day and picked up a closed pair for a souvenier but eventually discarded it. It later struck me that the pair of shells were closed and could have been a living scallop. Talking with a diver friend later, he confirmed it probably was. Doh! (The reason I did not realise earlier was that I had been led to believe that scallops swim about by opening & closing their shells...I had not really expected to be able to just pick them up).

Anyway, I returned months later and again found some empty shells and again picked up a pair as souvenier, although this time an open pair & therefore clearly empty. Shortly afterward I noticed a shell & then found a closed clam and then another and then another... I put my souvenier open shells in the clam bag with the rest. When I came out and looked through the bag -- all shells were closed! The "empty" shell case must have been a living, feeding scallop...and many of the other "empty shells" that I passed by as old & empty were probably in fact living scallops! (Although there were a few empty shells for sure too). Moral of the story - take a second look at those empty shells.:D

Re. ASP, I have forgotten where it was now.:confused:

Old Man Dave, a question for you, as a professional fisherman, did you take steps to preserve fish/shellfish stocks? It may seem like an odd question but it seems like we are always on the brink of exterminating several species. Your scallop story really is quite worrying. I wonder if that mindset still exists? The recent EU cod quota of 21 tonnes for 2006 from a total stock of 40 tonnes -- suggests to me that it does. What happens when there are not enough cod left to fish -- cheap cod boats? exterminate another species? No doubt the growing world population will continue to increase demand on stocks :(.
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