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Crystal River Scalloping

Florida Scallop Season 2024: What to Know for a Successful Harvest [Updated]

By May 19, 2023May 22nd, 2024No Comments
A picture of Crystal River Florida Fishing Adventures Florida Scallop Season 2024: What to Know for a Successful Harvest [Updated]

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Eric Bonneman

As Florida’s 2024 scallop season approaches, the excitement is palpable along the Gulf Coast. An activity that perfectly combines the fun of snorkeling with the thrill of fishing, scalloping is a fun-filled, family-friendly adventure that takes you into the heart of Florida’s stunning coastal waters. Here’s what you need to know for a successful harvest in the 2024 season, which runs from July 1 to September 24.

What is Scalloping?

Scalloping is the practice of harvesting bay scallops, treasured for both their delicious meat and their beautiful shells. Imagine swimming among hundreds of fish, turtles, and crabs in waters ranging from 2-7 feet deep, hunting for these prized shellfish – it’s an outdoor experience like no other.

These scallops, they’re not like your giant sea scallops. Bay scallops are smaller, about the size of a golf ball, with unique, fan-shaped shells that shimmer with hues of blue, pink, and green. They can jet around by clapping their shells together, squirting water to scoot away from predators, or maybe from you and your net.

A picture of Crystal River Florida Fishing Adventures Florida Scallop Season 2024: What to Know for a Successful Harvest [Updated]

While not absolutely necessary, many folks suit up in snorkeling gear to help them swim and spot scallops more efficiently.  You’ve got your mask, your snorkel, and your fins to help you move smoothly through the water—peering down looking for that telltale glint of color or the slight movement as they clap their shells. Don’t forget a mesh bag to stash your finds!

While you’re out there in nature, floating over grassy seabeds, you’ll spot not just scallops but also a variety of fish, maybe some sea turtles, and if you’re lucky, a dolphin or two in the distance. And at the end of the day, you get to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, cooked up fresh—maybe with a squeeze of lime and a dab of butter. That’s scalloping for you, a true Florida adventure.

Finding Scallops

Now, where exactly do you go scalloping? Bay scallops aren’t just anywhere. They thrive in seagrass beds in shallow waters about 2 to 7 feet deep. That’s shallow enough that even the little ones can join in on the fun, with some supervision. They use these grassy areas to camouflage and secure themselves, using their ability to blend in to evade sharp-eyed predators like fish and crabs.

The prime spots stretch along the Gulf Coast, places like Crystal River and Homosassa light up with scallop seekers during the season. In Crystal River, the waters are crystal clear, hence the name, providing perfect visibility for spotting them in the grasses.

A picture of Crystal River Florida Fishing Adventures Florida Scallop Season 2024: What to Know for a Successful Harvest [Updated]

The shallow waters here also mean that even those who are not strong swimmers can easily stand up if they need a break from snorkeling. The bay itself is protected from large ocean swells, providing calmer waters for families and groups to spend hours in the water without the fatigue that can comes with more turbulent, wavy areas.

Recognizing Scallops

When you’re out on the water, you’ll be scanning the seagrass on the flats for the distinct shape of a scallop shell reminiscent of the logo of a particular gas station brand. You simply float along the surface, peering down over the sprawling seagrass meadows. When you spot the telltale fan-shaped shell of a scallop, down you go!

a picture of a swimmer holding a bag of scallops

The first thing that’s likely to catch your eye, is their eyes. And not just one or two—up to a hundred tiny blue eyes lining the edge of their shells. They’re there to spot any shadows or movements that might mean trouble, like a hungry fish or a scallop hunter like yourself. And those eyes glimmer like tiny sapphires when the sunlight hits just right.

When you get a good look at one, you’ll notice they’ve got two sides to their shells, each colored to blend in perfectly with their surroundings. The top side of the shell is usually a dark brown, mottled with patches of algae-green or mud-brown, matching the seagrass or the murky patches on the seabed. This side faces up, making it hard for predators (and scallopers) to spot them from above.

Flip that scallop over, and you’ll see the underside is a stark, clean white, almost like fresh paint. When they are down in the sand, this side faces the sky, blending in with the sandy bottom.

When you’re scanning through the seagrass, these details are what you’re looking for. A glint of blue might catch your eye, or maybe a patch of brown that looks just a bit too symmetrical, too perfect to be a clump of seaweed. That’s your bay scallop, sitting there half-hidden, thinking it’s sly and unseen.

These little critters are fascinating to look at when you scoop them up. However, they’re also surprisingly spry, often darting away with a quick clap of their shells when they sense your approach.

The Art of Scallop Harvesting

Once you’ve spotted a scallop, the harvest is straightforward – swim down and pick them up off the bottom, placing them in your mesh bag. But here’s a pro tip: Scallops tend to hang out in groups. So when you find one, take a good look around. There’s a good chance that you’ll find many more in the same area, sometimes as many as 30 or more.

When you see one, you want to take a nice, easy swim down to the bottom. No rushing—you want to be smooth so you don’t stir up the sand or spook them. You gently slide your hand under them and scoop them up, because if you come at them from above, they might just zip away.

It’s like an underwater Easter egg hunt, except instead of eggs, you’re diving for beautiful, tasty bay scallops. It’s a chance to cool off in the water, soak up the sun, and bring home a feast.

A picture of Crystal River Florida Fishing Adventures Florida Scallop Season 2024: What to Know for a Successful Harvest [Updated]

Cleaning them can be a bit of work, but it’s worth it when you get to the cooking part. Those sweet, tender bay scallops are perfect for frying, sauteing, or tossing on the grill. Whether you fry them up to a golden crisp, sauté them with a bit of garlic and butter, or throw them on the grill for that smoky flavor, they’re downright delicious.

And that’s scalloping for you—it’s like an underwater treasure hunt, where you get to relax, get some exercise, and cool off from the Florida sun in clear, shallow waters—followed by a whole lot of deliciousness at the end of the day.

Ready for Scallop Season 2024?

a picture of a cooler full of scallops harvested in Homosassa Florida

With the 2024 scallop season in Tampa Bay scheduled from July 1 through September 24, now is the perfect time to start planning your scalloping adventure.

Whether you’re an experienced scalloper or a first-timer, you’re sure to find some fun and relaxation in this uniquely Floridian tradition.

Meet Your Captain: Louie Argiro

For those who prefer a guided experience, consider joining a scalloping charter with Florida Fishing Adventures. Under the expert guidance of Captain Louie, you’ll have an unforgettable day of aquatic adventure. However, whether you choose a guided trip or venture out on your own, the most important thing is to relish the experience of being out on the water, participating in the exhilarating tradition of scalloping.

As the owner and operator of Florida Fishing Adventures, Captain Louie Argiro has a wealth of experience in Crystal River, Ozello, and Homosassa waters. His fishing career began in Tampa, south of Crystal River, and since then his career has included diverse areas from the chilly waters of Alaska to the fisheries of North Carolina. Every day on the water in Crystal River, Captain Louie draws on this extensive experience to provide a rich and rewarding adventure.

A picture of Crystal River Florida Fishing Adventures Florida Scallop Season 2024: What to Know for a Successful Harvest [Updated]

“Scallop season is one of the most exciting events along the Gulf Coast of Florida,” says Captain Louie. “Scalloping offers a unique opportunity for the whole family to dive into the outdoors and enjoy the abundant life and beauty of our coastal waters.”

Here’s to a successful and enjoyable 2024 scalloping season; book your trip today!

Eric Bonneman

Just a guy who fishes and writes about his experiences.

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