A visit to Florida’s Nature Coast is like a step back in time to a Florida before high rise buildings, cell phones, and jam packed schedules. Recreational Scallop Season is a great reason for Tampa Bay residents to grab friends and family and head north. At one time scallops ranged abundantly across the state, from Palm Beach on the east coast to Pensacola on the west coast. Today, however, healthy populations can only be found in selected locations along the Gulf coast. The most popular destinations for recreational scallopers are Steinhatchee, Crystal River and Homosassa. 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.
Recreational scallop season is open from June 29th-September 24th, 2013. Recreational scallopers between the ages of 16 and 65 must have a current Florida saltwater fishing license to collect scallops. 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.
Be sure to follow safe snorkeling and boating procedures. When snorkeling from a boat, regulations require a dive flag displayed on your boat. When snorkeling from shore, you must keep a floating dive flag with you . Boaters should recognize your dive flag and its meaning, however always err on the side of caution and pay close attention to boat traffic in your vicinity. A full list of boating regulations can be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. Always monitor local weather and tides and be prepared for unexpected summer storms.
For more information, visit the Florida Sea Grant website. To see more scallop photos and to follow up to date marine and coastal news visit the UF IFAS Pinellas County Sea Grant Extension Facebook Page.