Scalloping Season 2018
Florida Scalloping Season is Here!
Summer is the time when the Florida Scalloping Season officially kicks off. A Florida scalloper will be able to harvest these tasty treats from August 17th through September 30th.
Snorkelers swim on the surface looking for scallops
Once out on the Gulf of Mexico, it’s easy to spot the scalloping grounds. A slew of boats are anchored, dive flags float nearby while snorkels skim the surface.
The sounds of summer fun are in the air - the experience is much like a saltwater tailgate party.
One thing is certain: Everyone is having a great time! It's a wonderful family bonding adventure.
Scallops hide in or top of the seagrass
Down below, the crystal clear water provides a perfect view of nature’s aquarium, where you can see billowing pastures of sea grass interspersed with patches and valleys of sandy bottoms. The grass is where the scallops are hiding. Often they sit on top of the grass, but are easiest to spot where the sand meets the edge of the grass beds.
It's the neon blue eyes that pop through the scallop opening that catch your eyes. After grabbing them, place the delectable mollusks into your scallop bags. The experience is what we call a salt water Easter egg hunt.
It feels a lot like being at an underwater marine museum. Many of the scallopers see starfish, seahorses, turtles, fish of all kinds – needlefish, pinfish, sea trout and minnows - and so much more. Seagrass beds are very productive ecosystems that support an abundance of sea life.
Two gallons of whole scallops are allowed per person
However, be forewarned ... scalloping is addictive! The more you find, the more you want. But, there are limits. Two gallons of whole scallops are allowed per person or one pint of scallop meat per person ... it's the law.
Once scallops are cleaned, they are placed on ice
Once scallops are brought to the boat, they are placed on ice and cleaned. An oyster knife helps pry open the scallop and remove the precious white meat.
Many local restaurants will cook your fresh scallops, but call ahead to check
Back on shore, many local restaurants will cook the scallops (for an extra charge). It’s best to call ahead and make sure. Some families haul grills with them and cook outside their hotel rooms. You don’t need many ingredients, just add butter and a little seasoning and you have a scrumptious five-star meal.
What to Know If You Go
- Best Days To Go Scalloping: Weekdays, try to avoid the weekend crowds
- Scalloping is legal from the Florida Panhandle Mexico Beach Canal around the Big Bend to down to Pasco County.
- It is illegal to possess bay scallops on waters outside open harvest areas or during the closed season.
- Legal Gear: Harvest permitted only by hand or by using a landing or dip net
- Commercial harvest prohibited.
- Recreational harvesters need a Florida saltwater fishing license to harvest bay scallops unless they are 1. exempt from needing a license or 2. have a no-cost shoreline fishing license and are wading from shore to collect scallops (i.e. feet do not leave bottom to swim, snorkel, or SCUBA and harvesters do not use a vessel to reach or return from the harvest location).
Consult the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation for more information.
Finding a Tour Guide:
A complete tour should include snorkeling equipment, ice chests for preserving the catch and drinks during the trip. Any regular boat tour must also include a fishing license, because this is a legal requirement to go scalloping in Florida.
St. Joseph Bay, Gulf County
On the Florida Panhandle, Gulf County is a go-to place for scalloping. Port St. Joe is the main town and St. Joseph Bay is the scalloping area. What is unique about this area is that if you don’t want to bother with a boat, you can easily access the shallow scalloping areas by wading in. Drive along the coastal Highway 98, look for crowds of people, (which usually means they have found scallops), park your car on the side of the road, and wade in with your buckets! (Make sure you have your license.) Another place to go is St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park, where there is easy access to the bay.