Scalloping is a popular annual activity that the entire family can enjoy during the summer months in Hernando County. It’s only permitted in a limited area of the Florida coast, and we’re lucky enough to live right in the “harvest zone!” Scallops can only be harvested by hand or using a landing or dip net. These delicious little bivalves are fairly easy for beginners to catch (they can swim though so you have to be quick!) using just a mask and snorkel to hunt for them. They are bottom dwellers and live in shallow water (4-8 feet), usually in grass beds, along Florida’s Gulf coast, from Pensacola to the Florida Keys. The glowing, electric blue eyes running along the edge of their shells make them distinguishable from other bottom dwellers. You’ll want to bring along a mesh bag for collecting them and an ice chest for storing them too. Water shoes are also recommended.
Bay scallops were once plentiful in Florida but their range has decreased substantially and they have disappeared totally in some areas, so they can only be harvested by recreational anglers now (the commercial harvest has been closed since 1994) and there are strict regulations you must follow:
- Harvesters are limited to two gallons of unshucked bay scallops (or one pint of bay scallop meat) per person per day.
- Harvesters aboard a vessel may possess no more than 10 gallons of unshucked scallops (or 1/2 gallon of bay scallop meat) in total at any time.
- A dive flag is mandatory while harvesting.
- A Florida saltwater fishing license is required. Click here for license information. Each year the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission offers a few license free fishing days. On these days, the fishing license requirement is waived for all recreational anglers (residents and non-residents).
- Bay scallops can only be fished in state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. It is illegal to possess scallops on waters outside open harvest areas or to dock with scallops outside harvest areas. The map below shows the current coastal areas where bay scallop harvest is legal.
Regulations are always subject to change so harvesters should review current rules and regulations
at http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/regulations/bay-scallops/ before heading out!