14 Jun Scalloping on Florida’s Nature Coast
Out to the Scallop Grounds: It is July, first, 2018, opening day of the long-awaited scallop season in Citrus County. Next to eating scallops, the best part about scalloping is having fun out on the water. Each year during the summer months thousands of people flock to Florida’s Nature Coast to enjoy the pursuit of scalloping.
The Day Begins
Around 10:00 AM, a young girl sits on the transom of the family boat. She rinses her pink mask in the clear shallow waters. Next, she slips on her matching fins. Finally, she settles the mask on her face and bites gently on her snorkel’s mouthpiece. With barely a splash, she slips feet-first into the warm Gulf water. Moments later, Mom, Dad and her older brother all wearing snorkeling gear join her by the transom.
Their scalloping adventure is about to begin. Before everyone goes off in different directions, Dad wants to mention a few things. He cautions everyone to stay within 100 feet of the boat. Also, to listen for boat motors and to take a look around above the water every once in a while.
Safety While Scalloping
Although regulations allow for a snorkeler or scuba diver, in open water, to be within 300 feet of a boat flying, it is a good safety measure to keep everyone closer. The diver-down flag must be displayed in such a way that it offers an unobstructed 360 degree view to other boaters. Individuals may display a twelve by twelve-inch diver-down flag in lieu of the larger vessel flag. These usually consist of the flag on a fiberglass rod or wood shaft attached to a buoy, towed on a short tether by the diver.
Collecting the Scallops
The kids already spot several scallops right by the boat and with mesh bags in hand, Dad lets them go. Mom is a little squeamish about picking the scallops up with her bare hands so she carries a little hand net. By hand or with a dip net are the only two methods one can use by regulations for collecting bay scallops. As these snorkelers explore the turtle grass, they place one after another of the mollusks in their catch bags.
Suddenly, there is a startled gurgle from the girl as she raises her head above the water giggling. A scallop she was about to grab squirted away at the last second. Bay scallops have many tiny, blue eyes along the outer rim of the shells. This helps them detect movement. When someone approaches, they can squirt away by rapidly and forcefully snapping its shell, thus expelling water to propel itself. Of course this just adds to the fun. Recovering from her surprise, the girl gives chase and in a moment this one joins the others in her catch bag.
Scalloping Has Its Limits
The bags are getting heavy and Dad calls every one back to the boat. The kids are reluctant to leave the water, but cold drinks and sandwiches entice them to come aboard. A friendly argument quickly ensues as to who caught the most scallops. Dad reminds them of the bag limits. Scallopers are allowed 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person. Also, a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.
A Great Day On The Water
By now, Mom, is ahead by six. By consensus, they decide to move a couple of hundred yards to another grassy area. While Dad starts the outboard, junior is pulling up the anchor and Mom and daughter are combining their catch into a gallon milk jug that has had the top cut off. To their surprise and delight, they have almost a full gallon of whole scallops in shell. They still have the rest of the day ahead of them and the season is open until September 24th promising many more days of scalloping fun.
Finally, if you are not an expert at opening the scallop and extracting the meat, there are plenty of folks at many docks who will do it for a nominal fee. Additionally, there are also many restaurants that will cook this succulent fare for you and add the trimmings. Come join in the fun!
So, if being on the water is one of your passions and a beautiful, well built, waterfront home is in your future, you cannot do better than to make your home in this natural paradise.
Please contact us today for information on waterfront homes or lots for sale on the Homosassa River, Crystal River or on Florida’s Nature Coast.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Regulations can be found here.
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