During Florida’s scallop season hiring a Crystal River or Homosassa guide makes snorkeling for and collecting sweet bay scallops easy. Florida’s sweet bay scallops are a delicious treat and available for harvest during a short time each summer. Citrus County, specifically Crystal River and Homosassa, is a bountiful and popular destination for scalloping. Anyone can collect scallops on their own but hiring a professional guide makes the experience easy.
Florida Bay Scallops in a Bivalve Shell
Florida’s bay scallop population was on the verge of collapse in 1994 and the following year new regulations were set to protect and grow the population. Thanks to these regulations and restoration efforts by the Florida Marine Research Institute, scallop populations are growing and scalloping reopened in the Citrus County area within the past decade. Scallop season varies each year but is typically a short period between the end of June through mid-September and is limited to parts of Florida’s west coast between the Pasco-Hernando County line northward to the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County including Port St. Joe.
Snorkeling for Bay Scallops in Homosassa Bay
Crystal River and Homosassa River provide access to Homosassa Bay where scallops are plentiful. Many times the shellfish are resting atop turtle grass but once they sense danger, scallops are quick to escape and often hide beneath the grass. Once a scallop has been caught, it should be placed in a mesh bag to allow water to flow through while snorkeling and searching for more. Expect to hear a clicking sound from the scallops in the bag and keep them away from the body as scallops have been known to clamp down on what’s near them including swimsuits.
Florida scallops can only be harvested for recreation and not commercially. Scallopers are limited to two gallons in the shell or one pint of bay scallop meat per day while boats may possess up to 10 gallons of whole bay scallops or half a gallon of bay scallop meat. Shells with a green dot near the hinge indicate that scallop was produced from the restoration project.
Scalloping in Citrus County, Florida: Why Hire a Guide?
Anyone with a Florida saltwater license can harvest scallops but when hiring a guide, the captain will have the necessary license and snorkeling equipment. For example, scallopers without a guide will need fins, mask, snorkel, mesh bag, dive flag, saltwater fishing license, and mode of transportation to a scalloping site. A Homosassa guide will most likely have all of these items.
Another advantage is a Crystal River or Homosassa guide usually has the inside scoop as to where to find scallops and offers tips on how to catch the shellfish. Hiring a guide also means someone will demonstrate the proper way to clean the catch. Captain Mike with Sunshine River Tours (Tel: 352-628-3450 ) shows tour passengers how to properly clean scallops back at the boat dock. Scallopers are instructed to hold the scallop with the dark side up, use a knife to cut the hinge and detach the meat from the top shell. He then uses a mini shop-vacuum to suck away the scallop’s soft tissue leaving the sweet, white muscle meat which is then detached from the bottom shell.
What to Bring When Scalloping in Homosassa
A Homosassa scalloping guide will review what should be brought during an excursion but don’t forget a small cooler, sunscreen, towel, water, snacks, waterproof camera, and gratuity for the guide. A tip between10 to 20 percent is acceptable based on the experience.
The Citrus County Visitors & Convention Bureau (Tel: 352-628-9305) offers a complete list of guides for happy scalloping.