Harvesting bay scallops was labor of love

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My family, over the years, has tried to brainwash me into believing some work experiences are really recreational/social functions.

For example, when I was a boy, we would go to Escambia Bay at Pensacola, Fla., to go scalloping. The bay was filled with scallops in the 1960s. As they do today, scallops made for a good meal — if one could harvest enough of them.

My family developed a harvesting technique that resulted in plenty of scallops for about four to six people. The technique — developed to make harvesting scallops seem like a day at the beach — remains ingenious to this day.

First, tell the children they are going to the beach. Second, make sure they are wearing cut-off jeans, an old pair of sneakers and sunscreen. The cut-off jeans come in handy because the children will be wading in torso-deep water where the scallops live. The old sneakers are needed to protect the children’s feet as they drag their feet through the sea grasses on the bottom of the bay. There are some folks who toss broken bottles and metal objects in bays, sounds and oceans. One can get a nasty cut on a foot in an environment like that.

One also needs a rope, a inner tube and a wash tub. Place the wash tub in the center of the inner tube, which results in the wash tub floating on the water. Tie one end of the rope to a handle on the foot tub. Tie the other end of the rope to the belt loop at the center of the rear of the cut-off jeans.

As several children walk side by side through the bay, the slide their feet along the bottom of the bay. Their feet will alert them to the presence of a scallop shell, usually with a live scallop inside. The children reach into the water, extract the scallops and toss them into the wash tubs they are pulling behind them.

It’s an efficient way to harvest scallops. It’s also a way for the children to play in the water as they labor for their evening meal.

Yeah, I knew we were working and being exploited by the adults. I really didn’t mind because I was playing in the water, too. Sometimes, while dragging one’s feet through the water, one would find something other than a scallop, say an angry crab, a fishing pole or a man’s watch.

Bay scallops are my favorite seafood, perhaps because harvesting them was such a hands-on experience some 50 years ago. Or perhaps because they’re easy to cook — sautéed with a little butter and garlic.

I’ve got plenty of bays to choose from in coastal North Carolina. All I’m missing are the rope, inner tube and wash tub. Then again, there are plenty of seafood markets around here.

Look out, scallops! Here I come.

Mike Voss is the senior member of the newsroom at the Washington Daily News.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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