The annual scallop season kickoff event took place on June 15, 2017 at the Steinhatchee Community Center. Watch this recording of the event for info on legal regulations, scallop biology and safe boating best practices.
Harvest Area and Seasons
Harvest Areas and Seasons
See the table below for 2017 scallop season dates by region. For maps of each zone, visit: FWC Bay Scallops
|Harvest Areas||Gulf County, including St. Joseph Bay (Zone 1)||Fenholloway River to Suwannee River (a portion of Taylor County and all of Dixie County) (Zone 2)||All other areas open to the harvest of bay scallops (Zone 3)|
|Open season dates||July 25 – Sept. 10, 2017||June 16 – Sept. 10, 2017||July 1 – Sept. 24, 2017|
The most popular destinations for recreational scallopers are Steinhatchee, Crystal River and Homosassa. This is because the Florida bay scallop, a bivalve mollusk, grows and lives in the shallow (4 to 10 feet deep) seagrass beds that are common to these areas.
New! Scalloping Brochures by County
These four updated brochures for Citrus,Taylor, Hernando and Wakulla counties include new marina and boat ramp maps, delicious recipes, information on how to clean and dispose of shells and recommended size limits.
Want to Become a Citizen Scientist?
Scallops aren’t abundant in areas like southwest Florida, which used to allow the commercial and recreational harvest of scallops. Today, Florida Sea Grant extension agents are working to restore scallops to healthy populations and they need your help! Find out how you can help: Scallop restoration
- Swim mask
- Small mesh bag
- Divers-down flag (required by law)
- Displayed on vessel, must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches with a stiffener to keep the flag unfurled. Should only be displayed while snorkelers are in the water; display above the vessel’s highest point.
- Tethered to diver, must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches; mandatory when using a mask and snorkel from the beach unless it is a marked swimming area.
- You must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.
- Usually required to get to the best scalloping areas. In shallow water, it is possible to wade for scallops in the seagrass, or to collect them from a shallow-draft boat using a dip net or landing net, but these methods are not very productive. Most scallopers go by boat into water 4 to 10 feet deep where they anchor, put up their dive flag, and snorkel over the beds, collecting the scallops by hand.
Collecting and Handling Scallops
Scallops may be spotted on or near the bottom of seagrass beds, usually lying on their ventral shells. Often, they are easiest to find in borderline areas where the sand/mud bottom meets the edge of the grasses. Scallops have many neon-blue eyes and may try to swim away when they see you, but they do not swim fast or far. Keep collected scallops in a mesh bag, rather than in a pocket or in your swimsuit. They can pinch!
When brought to the boat, scallops should be immediately placed on ice in a cooler for the trip to shore unless you decide to clean the scallops while on the water. Scallops are quite sensitive to temperature and will quickly die if they are not kept cold. Even if kept cold, scallops will usually die shortly after being placed on ice, especially if fresh water gets into their shells.
The best way to store your scallops is to position them in a cooler above the accumulating melt water from any ice. A moist towel can be placed between the ice and scallops to temper the thermal shock that will immediately kill the scallops and/or absorb any weepage from the scallops. The intent is not to keep the scallops alive, but the duration of live storage can reduce bacterial growth. Placing scallops on ice makes them easier to open, because the muscle holding the shells together relaxes.
A scallop, clam or oyster knife, or even a teaspoon, can be used to open the shells and cut the white muscle free, discarding the shells and unwanted soft parts. Although most Floridians only eat the scallop muscle, in many other parts of the world the entire animal is eaten, much like we eat clams and oysters. If this is done, scallops should be cooked because many open harvest areas for scallops are not classified for harvest of other shellfish species.
Video: How to Clean Your Scallops
Though not required, collecting scallops that are at least one and a half to two inches in size is seen as a best scalloping practice because the scallops have likely spawned at least once and are large enough to produce enough meat to make cleaning worthwhile.
Cleaning your shells
- Be courteous of other scallopers and move your boat away from the scalloping areas first, then anchor. It’s no fun scalloping where others are cleaning their catch.
- When finished cleaning on shore, dump the shells and guts in any deep water away from shore so no one steps on them. OUCH! Be sure the deep water is NOT a channel. Shells could begin to fill the channel and have negative impacts on surrounding waters.
- Want to keep shells to use for crafts or garden cover? Try placing the shells in a net bag and putting them back into the water. Small fish and crabs will be happy to clean the shells.
In general, recreational scallopers between the ages of 16 and 65 must have a current Florida saltwater fishing license to collect scallops. There are some exceptions, listed in the FWC “Florida Saltwater Recreational Fishing Regulations,” which is available in bait shops, FWC offices, or at the FWC website (http://myfwc.com/). All non-residents over the age of 16 are required to buy a license unless they are fishing (scalloping) from a for-hire vessel (guide, charter, party boat) that has a valid vessel license. Most scallopers need a regular saltwater fishing license, but requirements vary with age and residency. Florida residents need a regular saltwater fishing license, unless exempt (scallopers under 16 years of age, residents 65 years of age or older with proof of residency and age, or scallopers on a boat with a valid recreational saltwater fishing license).
Harvesting is allowed from the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal (in Bay County) to the Pasco-Hernando county line (near Aripeka). The bag limit is 2 gallons of whole scallops (in the shell), or 1 pint of scallop meat per person per day. In addition, no more than 10 gallons of whole scallops or 1/2 gallon of scallop meat may be possessed aboard any vessel at any time. You may harvest scallops only by hand or with a landing or dip net. Scallopers must remain in the legal scalloping area while in possession of scallops on the water, including the point where they return to land.
Recreational scalloping is not allowed everywhere, particularly in Southwest Florida where populations have been too low to harvest. In this video, Captain Betty Staugler, a Florida Sea Grant agent, UF/IFAS Extension, discusses her efforts to restore the Bay scallop population in Charlotte County.
Scallop restoration activities:
Researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission need your help! Once you’re done scalloping for the day, complete an online survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/bayscallops. Harvesters can indicate where they harvest scallops, how many they collect and how long it takes to harvest them. Survey participants can email BayScallops@MyFWC.com with questions or additional information.
Learn more about FWC’s mew index-based graph, which illustrates long-term trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting MyFWC.com/fishing and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”