Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Travel Florida - Florida Scalloping

Season Begins July 1st!

Scallop Season is
Just Around the Corner -

Make Plans Now
and Join in the Fun!  

There was a time when Florida bay scallops were abundant.  One could find them throughout saltwater bays and inlets from Palm Beach, Florida south and around the peninsula to Pensacola Beach.   

Today healthy populations of scallops can only be found in selected locations along the Gulf coast, and come Friday,  July 1st, that’s where to go to get your own fresh bay scallops.

Scalloping Season is to the Big Bend of Florida what Lobster Season is to the Keys.  People of all ages, from young kids to grandparents, make their way to the Gulf of Mexico to collect their legal limit of Bay scallops—and often do so in just a couple of hours!

2012 Scallop Season Open Harvest Area
The Scallop Season in Florida runs from July 1st through September 10th  in 2012.  

The State has designated the Open Harvest Area for scallops to be the waters of the Gulf of Mexico extending from the Pasco-Hernando County line (at the small town of Aripeka just south of Spring Hill, Florida)  to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County, south of Panama City. 

If you’ve never seen scalloping, let me describe it to you.  Scalloping is part saltwater fishing, part shallow water snorkeling and part underwater Easter egg hunt. 

Scallop hunters don snorkel masks, put up their dive flags, and go forth to fill their legal limit by swimming slowly along the floor of the Gulf and collecting the mollusks one at a time, which they then save in a mesh bag until surfacing.

Blue Eyes of the Scallop
Scallops are not difficult to find.  You'll find them within the grass sea beds in waist-high water usually 3 to 4 feet deep but sometimes as deep as 8 feet. 

Scallops have deep blue eyes which will see you coming and they’ll often move along to get out of your way. 

You can pick the scallops up by hand if you are quick and nimble, or you can scoop them up in a hand dip net.  Some of the fun is in the catching but scallops will pinch you, so take care not to give them your fingers.

Keaton Beach
Depending upon your location, you may or may not need a boat to go scalloping.   

 There are places such as Hagen’s Cove north of Steinhatchee, Florida where you can wade out to the sea grass beds and then snorkel to find scallops.  

Other places along the coast you’ll need a kayak, canoe or a boat to get out to the grasses. 

Scalloping doesn’t require a lot of equipment.  Scallopers need a dive flag, a mask and snorkel, a hand dip net, a mesh bag to store your scallops in during the hunt, and a cooler to store them in when out of the water. 

For cleaning your scallops at the end of the day, you could use a small bucket, a “ scallop/clam/oyster” knife (or even a simple teaspoon works well here), and a ziplock bag for the cleaned meat.  

 Other than that, you’ll need your basic swimsuit, sunscreen and a saltwater fishing license. 

Horseshoe Beach
Don’t have a boat?    

You’ll find boat rentals and a selection of tour guide operations throughout the Tarpon Springs to Big Bend area and most will be offering  Scalloping Tours.  Prices vary but you’ll find the average runs around $50 per person with a $200 minimum.   Some operators will allow you to mix parties if you’d like to join a group.  You can contact the State Tourism Office for recommendations.

Tarpon Springs, Crystal River, Steinhatchee, Keaton Beach, Horseshoe Beach and St. Marks predictably produce some of the best scalloping in Florida.   

The economies of small surrounding communities depend on recreationalists and all aspects of ecotourism during the Scallop Season, and have developed the infrastructure to support them. You’ll find cottages, villas, campgrounds and motels where you can stay.  Boat rentals, guides and provisions are also easy to find. 

Scallop in the Gulf Seagrass
That said, you need to make your Scalloping plans in advance.  Accommodations become harder to find once Scallop Season begins.

Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC) regulates harvesting of scallops in order to maintain healthy populations.    

You can find the all the pertinent rules and regulations for the 2012 Scallop Season at

Cleaned Scallop Meat
Here is a rundown of some of the things that you should know:

The season for Bay scallops runs from July 1 to September 10.

Recreational harvesters need a Florida saltwater fishing license to harvest bay scallops, even when scalloping from shore.

State waters in the Gulf of Mexico open to scallop harvest extend from the Pasco-Hernando County line near Aripeka to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.

Coordinates are: Latitude 28 degrees, 26.016 minutes N  to Longitude 85 degrees, 25.84 minutes West. 

It is illegal to possess bay scallops on waters outside open harvest areas.  
For example, it would be legal to take scallops from waters off the Hernando County coast, but it would be illegal to dock your boat in Pasco County with the scallop catch onboard.

Recreational harvesters are limited to 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell, or 1 pint of bay scallop meat, per day during the open season.   

In addition, recreational scallopers may possess no more than 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell, or ½ gallon of bay scallop meat, aboard any vessel at any time.

Bay scallops may be harvested only by hand or with a landing or dip net. They may not be harvested for commercial purposes.

Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) will be conducting their annual surveys of the Florida scallop population just before the season starts. Results should be available for public viewing in mid June 2012.

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