In Florida, we have some of the best fishing in the world all year long.
Red snapper season, which just ended, is a highly anticipated time, but more than fish interest anglers. It is time for recreational scallop season in the Gulf, and though we must travel east to go scalloping, it is a beneficial experience.
There is still plenty of time to take advantage of scalloping season, but the last day for recreational harvesting is Sept. 24. Harvesting areas are in state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the Pasco-Hernando county line.
Bay scallops are bottom-dwellers that live in shallow waters, near the shore along Florida’s Gulf Coast. These bivalves — typically found in 4-8 feet of water in seagrass beds — once inhabited most of the Florida Gulf Coast, but now can only be found in isolated distinct populations. This is due to the decline in their once historic habitat areas.
You can recognize bay scallops by their electric blue eyes and ability to swim, propelling themselves backward by opening and closing their shells quickly.
One piece of equipment required for your scalloping adventure is a salt-water fishing license for Florida residents between ages 16 and 65, and all non-residents over 16.
Other necessities are a swim mask, snorkel, small mesh bag, divers-down flag (required by law), and a boat or kayak.
The best scalloping occurs in the 4- to 10-foot deep area, where you can anchor your shallow-draft boat. Boating is more productive than scalloping by shore.
Look for scallops near the borderline areas of sea grasses, and collect them in the mesh bag since they can pinch. Once on the boat, scallops should be immediately placed on ice in a cooler.
Harvesting bag limits per person are 2 gallons whole for bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat. A maximum of 10 gallons of whole scallops in shell or a half-gallon bay scallop meat per vessel and harvesting is only permitted by hand; landing or dip net use only.
See myfwc.com for more information on harvesting regulations for scallops and other fisheries or www.flseagrant.org for additional helpful hints and recipes about bay scallops.
Brooke Saari is a Sea Grant Marine Science and Natural Resources agent at the Okaloosa County Extension office in Crestview. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 689-5850.