Great news for scallop lovers in the Kissimmee area – the season is opening early this year! Although it usually opens July 1st and lasts through September 25th, for the 2014 season, the opening date has become June 28th. This extra three days is designed to help local businesses that support the fishing industry.
How to Scallop
If you’ve never went bay scalloping before, the whole experience is quite a treat. You really don’t need a lot of fancy equipment and just about anybody can have fun doing it. In fact, if you stay in shallower water, a hand net and mesh bag may be all you need. If you want to go a little deeper out into the water, you can dive for the scallops – in which case you may want some basic diving equipment, which can include snorkel, goggles and fins.
Scallops look similar to clams or oysters in that they are bivalve mollusks. They swim with the current and propel themselves along by opening and closing their shells very rapidly.
How to find out where they are
The closest places for scalloping to the Kissimmee area include Crystal River/Homosassa Springs area on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is best to check out the local scallop surveys, produced by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to find out where the scallops have been spotted and are known to be congregating. Local news usually reports these counts, as do online news sources. Local marinas can also be a good resource for finding out where the best scallop spots are.
When you get to a spot that’s known to have scallops, start looking around sea grass beds, as that’s where you will find them hiding. They hang around in about 4-8 feet of water.
In many cases, the scallop shell is dark and you will see the movement of the shells. In addition, scallops also have electric blue eyes, so this should be used as a differentiator from other mollusks. Once you find one scallop, you will generally find many more in the same area as they tend to assemble together.
Scallops are pretty quick moving and it may take a few tries before you get the hang of catching the scallop with the hand net. But – once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun and you’ll be amazed at how many you can catch.
Rules in Florida
Make sure to get a saltwater fishing license before going scalloping as this is required by law. This is required even if you are fishing by hand on the shore and not going out on a boat.
The maximum daily limit of scallops is 2 gallons whole bay scallop in the shell or 1 pint of scallop meat per person. If you’re on a fishing boat, the maximum limit is by vessel: 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or ½ gallon scallop meat.
Make sure you know the bay scallop harvest zone and stay within it. The zone extends from the Pasco-Hernando County line to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. If you are on a vessel, make sure to remain within the harvest zone and not take your bounty outside to other waters.
Bay scallops are fun to catch and tasty to eat. This activity is great for kids of all ages and even the little ones can get into the action.