Scallop Season is Upon Us in Cape San Blas
After the cancellation of scallop season last year due to an algae bloom, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently announced that this year's season will begin on August 17th and end on September 30th. Thankfully, the scallops have been replenished as a result of better environmental circumstances, providing the Gulf Coast with a season longer than any other area in Florida. Once again, St. Joseph Bay in Cape San Blas will be filled with adults and children alike, scouring the water for these delicacies, and local restaurants will begin crafting inventive dishes to feature them in. It’s the ideal time to plan a last-minute getaway to the Cape for a stay in a Natural Retreats vacation rental!
Following is our guide to “scalloping” on the Gulf Coast:
If you plan on participating in the scallop harvest this year, you will need a saltwater fishing license, which can be obtained at the FWC website or at local outfitters. Please be advised that the daily bag limit per person is two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one pint of bay scallop meat per person. For entire vessels, the FWC allows a maximum of ten gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or half a gallon bay scallop meat per boat. For additional information, click here.
Minimal equipment is necessary in order to harvest bay scallops. You will need a boat (not necessary, but best for optimal scalloping), a swim mask, snorkel, a small mesh bag and a divers-down flag (this is required by law). Most scallop hunters go by boat into waters which are four to ten feet deep, where they drop anchor, put up a dive flag and snorkel over the beds, gathering the scallops by hand. Without a boat, one can simply wade through shallow waters with a dip net and a mesh bag.
Collecting scallops is simple. They can be spotted on or near the bottom of sea grass beds and are particularly easy to see where the sand/muddy bottom of the bay meets the edge of the bay grass. Remember that when you return to the boat or shore with your catch, immediately place your scallops on ice, which will make them easier to shuck
Cleaning bay scallops is more difficult than catching them, but well worth the effort! The simplest way to get them clean is to use a scallop or clam knife (a teaspoon can be used as well) to pry open the bottom and top shells and cut away the white muscle attached to the shell.
The only thing to do once you’ve cleaned your scallops is eat them! They can be made in a variety of ways; sautéed, blackened, fried, in chowders and over pasta.