Summer in Florida (in particular on the Nature Coast where the author resides) and scalloping go hand in hand with scallop season just around the corner.
Scallops, once so abundant that one could simply pull over on a causeway and wander into the seagrass filling a bag or bucket, saw a percipitace decline in populations leading into the early 1990’s. Serious restoration and fisheries regulation efforts were initiated to address the matter leading to closures up and down the west coast of Florida with the eventual tightly managed reopening of select areas as populations recovered.
Today, Floridians and visitors alike are able to enjoy the fun of harvesting scallops and the great addition they make in the kitchen
As the map above indicates, scallop harvesting is open in an area covering almost 200 miles of west Florida shoreline. Not all areas are created equal when it comes to the harvest but, there are great opportunities up and down the coast. The Crystal River/Homossassa are is wildly popular for scalloping as are Keaton Beach and Port St. Joe heading up the coast into the Florida Panhandle. (* a personal favorite of the author are the grass flats off of Steinhatchee)
Scallop season is regulated (you need a Florida fishing license*) ands your daily harvest is strictly limited. From the FWC:
Daily Bag Limit: 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person; Maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel
So, how do you scallop? Well, it is a pretty straight forward proposition. You either wade, as appropriate, in waters where scallops live or float/dive in deeper water. Scallops are not as sedate as you might think. They have multiple eyes (see below) and the ability to scoot out of harms way when need be. Still, you are at a distinct advantage in the battle:)
Check out this great video from Fishing with Luiza and Captain Jimmy Nelson for a deep run through of scalloping prep and execution.
The scallop season is upon us, almost, so get ready and get on the water to enjoy one of Florida’s truly unique on the water activities, available to folks with little or no experience and it can be done on the cheap (think kayaks or wading…) Oh,and, it tastes great too!