Florida’s scalloping season is officially here and is scheduled to run through September 24th this year. It is one of the most fun things one can do with their friends and family. It’s a great day on the water and the end result is a delicious meal. Here are a few things that will help you enjoy scalloping.
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.
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.
Scheduling a Charter
Because of all the rules and regulations, getting started scalloping can actually be quite intimidating. For that reason, Scalloping Charters are a great way to learn all about scalloping while ensuring that you aren’t breaking any laws.
There are dozens of charter boats like Crystal River Scalloping and Native Sun Tours that offer scalloping packages that include all of the gear and licenses you will need.
By allowing a charter company to take care of providing the boat, snorkeling gear, scalloping tools, licenses, coolers, and directing you on where to start looking, all you have to do is show up with sunscreen and a towel and start scalloping. It really couldn’t be easier, and many charters end up being cheaper than the market price of the scallops you will catch.
Rules & Limits
If you are going out on the water on your own here is some “need to know” information:
Because the scallop population is very sensitive, there are rules and regulations that must be followed if you are going to participate in scalloping.
First and foremost, you must have a valid Florida saltwater fishing license or be a part of a properly licensed charter. You are also only allowed to catch scallops in the specific areas.
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.
The daily limit for each person is 2 gallons of scallops with shells, or one pint of scallop meat. There is also a limit of 10 gallons of scallops with shells or one half gallon of scallop meat on a given boat.
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. Once again, if you find all of these rules and regulations confusing, your best bet is to hire a guide or charter.
Cooking Your Scallops
At first glance, cooking your scallops can also be pretty intimidating. They aren’t something that most people are used to cooking, and because they are seafood, many people worry that they might get sick from cooking the scallops incorrectly.
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.
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.
See you out on the water!