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Summertime Scalloping is Here!

It was finally the season we had all been waiting for.
Time to grab our snorkeling gear and head out the door!
With a handful of snacks and a cooler full of ice,
our fingers are crossed the weather goddess plays nice.
Full speed we go to the seagrass beds.
Dive flag reminding us to watch for bobbing heads.
Glimmering blue eyes help us to seek.
We fill our bags with tasty treats.
Dark shell up and scallop meat in hand,
they are now ready for our frying pan.
Bellies full and off to sleep,
scallop season beats Florida’s heat!

The 2021 recreational scalloping season is in full swing! Here are some tips and tricks to participate safely.

Make a safety plan! Before you leave the dock, make sure someone on land knows where you are going. Show everyone on board the vessel where the safety equipment is, including the fresh drinking water and first aid kit. Don’t forget to inspect your flares and fire extinguisher to ensure it hasn’t expired.

Start your day at the farthest site from the launch point. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in Florida during the summer months. As the day progresses, moving closer towards your launch point makes for a shorter run if a storm blows in.

Have an observer onboard while others are in the water. Unfortunately, the vessel’s anchor does not always keep its hold. It is no fun if your vessel unknowingly floats away. Plus, the observer can assist a swimmer in need.

Swim with a buddy. If you get tired or injured, they will be there to help!

Check the tides. When the tides change, currents can become intense, making it difficult for swimmers.

Lower your Divers Down Device before relocating. The Divers Down Device is to let others know that there are snorkelers and divers in the water. Florida’s law requires that this device is lowered immediately after everyone is out of the water.

Only harvest scallops larger than 1.5 inches. Bay scallops typically live for one year in Florida. Returning the smaller ones alive gives them a chance to reproduce in the fall and contribute to next year’s scallop population. Don’t have a ruler on board? Use the bottom of your beverage can. If it is smaller than the base metal ring, consider returning the scallop to the water and seeking a larger scallop to keep.

Drain your cooler. To reduce the chance of contamination, it is essential to hang the scallops you plan to harvest in a bag alongside your vessel or store them in a cooler full of ice. If you decide to place the scallops on ice, be sure they are above the meltwater. Place a damp towel between the scallops and ice and drain the meltwater from your cooler throughout your trip.

Be mindful where you dump scallop remains. Improperly discarded shells and contents can fill in channels, degrade water quality, and injure people and wildlife. Instead, please dispose of the scallop shells in a trash can, use them in place of mulch around trees and in flower beds, or make decorations out of them. They make great Florida Christmas ornaments and jewelry!

Wash your hands and utensils. Cleaning scallops can be a messy job! Be sure to wash your hands and tools before, during, and after shucking. Rinse scallop meat with cool water to remove any missed innards and sand.

Enjoy! Use caution by cooking the scallop meat before serving, and enjoy your meal! Remember, consuming raw and undercooked seafood can increase your chances of a foodborne illness.

For more information:
How to clean a scallop video
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission bay scallop information
Florida Sea Grant scallop information