From the Nov. 4, 1932 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Those who think of the Island as a vacation spot and that alone would be amazed to witness the activity which the opening of the scallop season launches into full flood. Scallopers out in their boats from early morning, openers at work cutting out the catch in boathouses and shanties later in the day, and buyers, local markets and shippers engaged with the distribution of the catch — these are the branches of the industry.

In the lush times gone by, scalloping did not assume such Island-wide importance as it does today. Katama Bay has always been known as Edgartown’s first national bank because of the shellfish that it has supplied, but some other towns have not attached so much importance to the scallop.

Now Oak Bluffs engages in scalloping with the greatest enterprise in Sengekontacket Pond, the Lagoon is to be improved by the dredging operation now in progress largely to increase scallop production for Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, and the Island seems to realize the importance of this fundamental industry for which our waters are so well adapted by nature.

There is probably never a real overproduction of scallops, but there may often be under consumption. It is to the Island’s interest to promote in every way possible an appreciation of this shellfish, and an increased demand on the part of the mainland public.

Tuesday morning’s long-fingered, gray streaks of dawn found the Edgartown scallop fleet, a greater part of it, on the way down harbor, eager with the first day’s fever to try the drags in Cape Pogue Pond. The wind and chop of the harbor forced some of the boats down to Katama Point, but the mecca of by far the greater number of the shellfish pilgrims was the pond, where the advance dope had it the big ones would be found.

The dope was right: the scallops there were big and heavy, the best quality said ever to be found there, opening a gallon and better to a bushel. Many of those opened were filled with spawn. Not only in the pond, but in all of the town waters the report is good, with a variation in size of course. Caleb’s Pond and the Eel Pond are also well stocked. The scarcity of grass pointed to the early skimming of most of the heavy cream, with some spots of that slippery rock-weed protecting the retiring bivalve. Some of the men reported that the grass has started to grow in many places and has reached a length of three or four inches.

The season opened in earnest that day, with both Vineyard Haven and Chilmark fishermen starting on their own beds. The law at Nantucket also was off the same day, although reports from the neighboring island indicate a poor season.

In Edgartown it was estimated that a fleet of seventy-five power boats was at work, besides a number of punts. The number of permits this year, on account of the depression, reached the all-time high of 150.

With the limit this year set at five bushels a man, the best fishing showed the five bushels coming up over the side in from two to three drifts, each of the six drags filling a couple of buckets clear. The result was that the gang was soon at the tedious business of opening, from 7:30 on.

In Vineyard Haven several boats tried the lower harbor for the first time, and reported very slim pickings indeed. What few were found ran to the usual large size and brought the best price of any Island scallops on the opening day, $2 to $2.25 being paid on the spot. There is no indication, however, that there will be any amount of scalloping outside of Lagoon Pond. The opening, having been closely blocked by sand bars for the past year, has not allowed the seed scallops to move into the harbor in any great numbers. Deepening of this opening will soon be completed and it is thought by some that if the weather remains warm some of the small scallops may move into the harbor and increase in size.

In Chilmark a number of boats went up into Menemsha Pond, where they struck some very good shellfish. But the report brought back by the returning fishermen was that a week’s time would suffice to clean up the beds. After the first day, dissatisfied with the price offered, Chilmark fishermen postponed the season in that town indefinitely.

Gay Head will not fish on its side until the 14th.

The opening day’s price of $1.50 offered by both George Eldridge of the Eldridge market, and Capt. St. Clair Brown, buyer for Sam Cahoon, proved a big disappointment to the fishermen, in view of the fine quality and size of the catch. The buyers offered in extenuation of the low figure the fact that there is no scallop money anywhere to take them from the wholesalers. Continued warm weather and the opening of many mainland scallop beds are other contributing causes. In connection with this it is interesting to note the steady decline in the opening prices of the last five years, each year showing a decrease as follows: 1931, $2 and $2.25; 1930, $3, so unsatisfactory that many shipped; 1929, $3 and $3.25; 1928, $3.50 and $3.75.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox