It’s hard to miss the flotilla of boats on the Gulf waters on Florida’s northwest coast this month. After all, scalloping season is in full swing, and vessels of all sizes—from kayaks to fishing boats and pontoons—are filled with people trying to catch the fast-swimming bay scallops (Argopecten irradians), a delicious delicacy for seafood lovers.
“Scalloping is an activity the entire family can participate in and enjoy. It is easy for beginners and doesn’t require much equipment,” says Tracey Newton of The Scallop Hunter, a complete resource site for everything you ever wanted to know about scalloping.
Bay scallops live in shallow waters along Florida’s Gulf coast from Pensacola to the Florida Keys, but it is only legal to harvest them in waters from the Pasco/Hernando County line to St. Vincent’s Island just west of Apalachicola Bay until Sept. 24. Harvesting and possessing bay scallops on waters outside open harvest areas and out-of-season is illegal.
And don’t go overboard with your scallop catches, because there are limits. Each person can bring ashore only two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shells or one pint of scallop meat per trip.
Recreational harvesters need a Florida Saltwater Fishing License, even if scalloping from shore. Snorkeling equipment comes in handy and many rental boats provide everything you need for an enjoyable day on the water. Be aware that reservations fill up fast with the rental companies offering scalloping tours, especially on weekends.
For information about scalloping regulations, visit the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.