Gone Quahuagging: Well, Almost

It was a long, hard summer for working Islanders, many of whom find their personal reward in the fall when things slow down a little and they can go out on a Saturday or Sunday and rake a basket of quahaugs, or maybe dig a mess of steamers for dinner. The water is still warm enough to wear shorts and water shoes and nothing tastes finer than a plateful of cold, briny littlenecks so fresh they are practically wiggling in their shells.

This marks the second straight year that mandatory closures have been in place at Sengekontacket Pond from June through September. Ordered by state fisheries biologists, the closures are due to bacterial contamination in the pond; the source of the contamination remains under study.

Rigorous testing this summer showed that the bacteria levels had dropped significantly and shellfish constables are hopeful that the closure may be lifted before next June rolls around.

Meanwhile, family shellfishermen in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown eagerly looked forward to the reopening of Sengekontacket Pond on October first.

But then they had more bad news.

Record heavy rains last week forced the temporary closure of all Island ponds to shellfishing; the closure is a preventive measure due to runoff from paved roads that contains contaminants such as hydrocarbons from automobiles.

The closure is short-term and does not apply to bay scalloping (family scalloping opened in Edgartown on Wednesday). It does apply to the taking of quahaugs, softshell clams and oysters.

And thankfully now it has stopped raining; at press time fisheries managers said they expected that the ponds would reopen sometime next week.

So frustrated quahauggers and clammers will have to wait a few more days before they get out the rakes, the baskets, the bread crumbs, lemons and cocktail sauce.

But, oh my goodness, will that shellfish taste good.