Crystal River

Florida Scalloping Season Starts July 1st!

Scallop.jpg

Throughout most of the country, the weeks leading up to the 4th of July are filled with fireworks and cookouts. But here along the Gulf Coast, we’re also focused on one of our favorite seafood items: Scallops! 

That’s right! Scalloping season is right around the corner. This year, the season kicks off on Monday, July 1 and runs all the way through Tuesday, September 24.

And whether you enjoy eating scallops or not, spending a day catching them is one of the most exciting things you can do in Citrus County.  

Bay scallops are a type of shellfish that live in shallow waters along the Gulf Coast of Florida just minutes from the Villages of Citrus Hills.

They tend to be found living in sea grass areas, where they can blend in well except for their bright blue eyes. If startled, you will see the scallops attempt to make their getaway by quickly opening and closing their shells to propel them backwards.

Scalloping Rules & Regulations 

If you are planning on heading out on your own scalloping adventure this year, you will want to be aware of the rules and regulations that you are going to be expected to follow. First and foremost, anyone out scalloping on their own must obtain a Florida Saltwater Fishing License.

In addition to having a license, there is a limit to how many scallops you are allowed to harvest on any given day. Just as it has been in previous years, the limit in 2019 is two gallons of whole scallops or one pint of scallop meat per person.  

There is also a maximum of 10 gallons permitted for each vessel out in the water. On top of that, the vessel you are using to scallop must leave from and return to a dock that is located within an area where scalloping is permitted.  

scallop2019season2.jpg

There are only three acceptable ways to harvest scallops; you must either catch them by hand, landing, or dip net. The most popular method is by hand, which is usually done while snorkeling with a mesh bag to hold your catch. You’re also required to utilize diving flags to alert any other boats in the area to your presence.

One particular rule that might seem confusing at first is that any boat that catches scallops in the legal area to do so, must also dock in the same area. It is illegal to catch scallops in the legal area and then unload them outside of the legal area.

The following link will bring you to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with all the official information.

https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/

Scheduling a Scalloping Charter

If all of those rules and regulations are making your head spin, you are not alone. Luckily, there is another option. By scheduling a private scalloping charter with one of the many tour companies throughout Citrus County, you can enjoy harvesting your scallops without having to worry about remembering the rules.  

When you go scalloping with a reputable charter company, you will be provided with all the gear and licenses you need, plus a guide who knows all of the details about how much you can harvest.  

There are dozens of local tour companies that would be happy to host your next scalloping adventure. The following link will bring you to a wonderful website, Discover Crystal River, with a few charter companies to consider.

https://www.discovercrystalriverfl.com/play/scalloping/ 

Shucking & Cooking Your Scallops 

After spending a fun afternoon out in the water grabbing scallops and shoving them into your mesh bag, the next step is to get them ready for dinner. But don’t worry, that process isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think.  

If you have the benefit of being on a scalloping charter, there is a good chance that shucking your scallops is included in the price. If not, get out your knife and dig in! Here is a great video that breaks down the process for you. 

https://www.saveur.com/video-how-shuck-scallop 

Once you get your scallops shucked and cleaned, it’s time to figure out how to cook them!

Seared-Scallops-Fifteen-Spatulas-3-640x427.jpg

However, scallops are actually incredibly easy to cook. All you need to do is pan-sear them with a little bit of oil over very high heat. Just cooking them for about one minute on each side is all you have to do. There is actually a better chance of you overcooking them than undercooking them.  

Some recommended approaches to cooking scallops include seasoning with salt and pepper, lemon pepper, or blackened Cajun seasoning before you sear them. Many recipes also recommend basting them with butter while cooking.  

While most people prefer their scallops fried in butter with a bit of their favorite seasoning, this article from Coastal Living Magazine offers up 34 delicious scallop recipes for anyone who is looking for something a bit different. The Scallop and Avocado Tostadas sound delicious. 

www.coastalliving.com/food/kitchen-assistant/scallops-recipes 

No matter how you like your scallops prepared, there is no denying that spending a day out on the boat harvesting them is one of the biggest benefits to living along The Nature Coast.

This recreational fishing activity combines all of the excitement of the catch that comes with traditional fishing without the worms. If you have ever enjoyed delicious scallops at a local restaurant, this is your chance to get out and catch your own.  

Because some of the best scallops in the world are basically sitting in our backyard, we would all be crazy to not go out scalloping at least a few times each year. The fact that there are so many great charter operations in our area makes it even easier. 

Even if you don’t care for seafood, the treasure hunt feeling you get from scalloping is a blast. Make sure that you don’t let this year’s scalloping season pass you by without filling a few mesh bags of your own!

Three Sisters Springs Boardwalk and Refuge

Three Sisters Springs Boardwalk and Refuge

Page-007 CROP.png

We are right in the middle of manatee season here along Florida's Nature Coast, and one of the best places in the world to see them in person is right here in our backyard at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River.  

It is important to understand that seeing Three Sisters Springs from the boardwalk and exploring the area from the water are two completely different experiences. Depending on what you are looking for, either option could make for a great afternoon in Citrus County.  

Three Sisters Springs from the Boardwalk

boardwalk no box.png

With 57 acres of preserve occupying this Florida wetland, there is a lot to see and do around Three Sisters Springs. And one of the best ways to take it all in is from the 1/4-mile boardwalk that connects different viewing platforms around the property.  

The fee for visiting Three Sisters Spring varies based on the season. It is $15 for a one-day adult pass during manatee season, which is double the cost during the off-manatee season. Of course, if you are interested in actually seeing manatees, the added cost for the winter season is more than reasonable. 

In order to get to the boardwalk, you have to take the trolley from the Three Sisters Springs Center. Those trolleys head out to the boardwalk about every 30 minutes, and they are operating every day of the week during manatee season.  

water no box.png

On top of providing transportation between the Three Sister Springs Center and the boardwalk, the trolleys also continue on to three other destinations around Crystal River.  

Three Sisters Springs by Water

Another way to get up close and personal with the manatees during their peak season is to visit Three Sisters Springs by water. There is nothing quite like cruising through the springs in a kayak or canoe, so this should definitely be on your Citrus County bucket list.  

There are no boat ramps or access points located within the reserve, but there are plenty of options to get into the water located nearby. For most people, the best option is to launch from Kings Bay and then making your way out to the springs.  

Anyone exploring the springs by water should be careful to respect the restricted manatee habitats.  

The following is a link for the Three Sisters Springs.

http://www.threesistersspringsvisitor.org/page/By%20Boardwalk 

The Manatee Festival

0a4c098b63c3e7fb97282e8db89a69f9-lbox-752x471-FFFFFF.png

If you have been thinking about making a special trip to Three Sisters Springs, this weekend is actually the perfect opportunity. They are hosting a Manatee Festival on Saturday, January 19 and Sunday, January 20.  

The boardwalk area will be open from 9 am to 3 pm on both days and admission will be completely free to public visitors. This will allow you to see manatees from the boardwalk without having to pitch up the usual $15 admission fee.  

Whether you are a manatee expert or just someone looking for something fun to do this weekend, Three Sisters Springs offers ways to get up close and personal with manatees on dry land via their boardwalk or in the water.

 

We highly recommend taking the time to attend the Manatee Festival there this weekend.

Stone Crab Season – October 15 to May 15

stonecrab1-1024x6851.jpg

Florida stone crabs are known around the world for their delicious claw meat. But did you know that many of the stone crabs on menus around the country come from right here near the Villages of Citrus Hills? 

Whether you prefer them served cold with mustard sauce or warm with drawn butter, the experience of cracking and eating these crab claws is something you will never forget! 

About Stone Crabs

Stone Crab.jpg

One of the most interesting aspects of Florida stone crabs is that they are actually a renewable resource. When the crabs are caught in the traps of professional stone crabbers, the crabbers only take one claw from each crab and the crabs are then returned to the water.

As a defense mechanism, stone crabs are able to survive losing a claw and then regenerate that claw in about a year.  

The average stone crab has a lifespan of 8-9 years, and they are generally found in sandy ocean bottoms and seagrass beds along Citrus County’s coastline out to a depth of about 20 feet. Large stone crabs can weigh as much as one pound. They feed on oysters, snails, and various other small marine life. Female stone crabs can spawn as many as six times each year, producing up to one million fertilized eggs each time. In addition to humans, stone crabs can also find themselves being hunted by octopuses and grouper.  

Catching Stone Crabs

SaltFishMeasure_Stone_Crab_F.jpg

The Florida stone crab harvesting season lasts seven months each year from October 15 through May 15. During this time, many amateur fishermen also hunt for stone crabs. 

Amateur crabbers are required to hold a salt water fishing license from the state of Florida, and they must adhere to certain regulations.

They are limited to a total of five traps, and they cannot catch more than one gallon of claws per day. The claws must all be a minimum of 2-3/4 inches.  

Eating Stone Crab

Charlies.jpg

While some find enjoyment in catching their own stone crab, many others prefer to let the professionals do the catching and simply focus on the eating. 

Probably the most popular place for stone crab near the Villages of Citrus Hills is Charlie’s Fish House & Seafood Market in Crystal River.  

The restaurant was originally started as an oyster bar by Charlie Kofmehl all the way back in 1960. The oyster bar was an immediate success, serving the best fresh fish and seafood in Citrus County. In the early seventies, Charlie turned the oyster bar over to his two sons, Jimmy and Phil.

Charlies Seafood Market.jpg

After years of continuing to grow the business, Jimmy and Phil decided to build a brand-new restaurant in 1990. The new waterfront restaurant had seating for 160 guests compared to seating for 30 in the old oyster bar. In honor of their father, Jimmy and Phil changed the name to Charlie’s Fish House.


Since then, the family business has continued to grow and guests can now find a third generation of Kofmehls working there.

Stone Crab.jpg

The restaurant menu at Charlie’s Fish House features a chilled stone crab appetizer with a mustard dipping sauce. There is also a 1-1/4 pound warm stone crab entree. In addition to stone crab, the menu features plenty of other local seafood favorites like oysters, grouper, shrimp, and scallops. If you prefer to cook your own seafood, Charlie’s Seafood Market sells fresh stone crab claws, as well as fresh caught grouper, mullet, red snapper, and even oysters. They can even ship stone crab to anyone you like across the country! 

Charlie’s also sponsors the Stone Crab Jam Music and Food Festival every fall in Crystal River. The festival is a fun-filled day of live music, exciting exhibits, and tons of stone crab.  

header.jpg

11thAnnual “Stone Crab Jam” 

is Saturday, November 3rd, 12 Noon until 10 PM, 560 N. Citrus Avenue

Downtown Historic Crystal River, FL 34423 

 

Whether you are a seafood nut, or just looking for a fun experience to share with your family, catching or eating Florida stone crab is a fantastic option. When you live in the Villages of Citrus Hills, you can choose to catch your own, cook your own, or let a place like Charlie’s take care of everything for you!