State of Florida Recreational Regulations for Harvesting Bay Scallops

Bay Scallop: Argopecten irradians

Florida Recreational Regulations:

  • Minimum Size Limit:
    •  None
  • Daily Bag Limit:
    • 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell, or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person
    • Maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel
  • Season*Open June 25 - Sept. 24
  • *Season opens the Saturday before July 1 unless July 1 falls on a Saturday, then the opening date would be July 1.
  • Commercial harvest prohibited.

Recreational harvesters need a Florida saltwater fishing license to harvest bay scallops unless they are 1. exempt from needing a license or 2. have a no-cost shoreline fishing license and are wading to collect scallops (i.e. feet do not leave bottom to swim, snorkel, or SCUBA).  

Bay Scallop Harvest Zone:

 

Bay scallops may only be harvested in state waters from the Pasco-Hernando County line (near Aripeka - latitude 28 degrees, 26.016 minutes North) to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County (longitude 85 degrees, 25.84 minutes West).

It is illegal to possess bay scallops on waters outside open harvest areas. It is also illegal to land scallops outside open harvest areas. For example, it would be legal to take scallops from waters off the Hernando County coast, but it would be illegal to dock your boat in Pasco County with the scallop catch onboard.

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: Harvest permitted by hand or landing or dip net

State Waters Harvest Seasons

Links to more Bay Scallop information:

About Scallops

The Florida Bay Scallop is a bivalve mollusk that grows and lives in seagrass beds in relatively shallow water, usually 4 to 10 feet deep. At one time scallops were reported from Palm Beach to Pensacola. Today, healthy populations can only be found in selected locations along Florida’s west coast—principally St. Joseph Bay, the Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach areas of the Big Bend, and the areas near the Crystal and Homosassa rivers.
Scallops live about one year before either dying off naturally or being eaten by humans, crabs, octopuses, or a variety of shell-crushing fish. They spawn primarily in the fall. After one to two weeks as plankton, larvae develop a small shell and settle onto seagrass blades. They continue to grow while attached to the grass blades by a mass of silk-like filaments called a byssus. They later fall from the grass blades and become free swimmers.
Unlike oysters and clams, scallops are active swimmers. They click their shells together, forcing expelled water to propel them rapidly.
Scallops are simultaneous hermaphrodites, able to spawn as either males or females, and are very fertile. To avoid fertilizing their own eggs, it is thought that individuals spawn as females before spawning as males. A single scallop can produce more than one million eggs per spawn.

The Big Bend Area and Steinhatchee are the home of the Core Population of Scallops

To monitor bay scallop populations in the state and maintain a plentiful breeding population, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) annually reviews the status of the scallop stock in the Gulf of Mexico. Results of surveys have continually shown that the scallop population within the Big Bend counties are key to the sustainability of the recreational harvest.
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How to Harvest, Equipment needed and Handling of Scallops

Harvesting

Scallops may be spotted on or near the bottom of seagrass beds, usually lying on their shells. Often, they are easiest to find in deeper cutsthrough grass beds, or along borders where the sand/mud meets the edge of the grasses. Scallops have dozens of neon-blue eyes and may try to swim away when they see you, but they do not swim fast or far. Keep collected scallops in a mesh bag, rather than in a pocket or in your swimsuit to avoid being pinched.

Equipment Needed 

• Swim mask
• Swim fins
• Snorkel
• Small mesh bag
• Diver down flag (required by law)
— Displayed on vessel, must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches with a stiffener to keep the flag unfurled. Should only be displayed while snorkelers are in the water; display above the vessel’s highest point.
— Tethered to diver, must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches; mandatory when using a mask and snorkel from the beach unless it is a marked swimming area.
— You must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.
• Boat
— Usually required to get to the best scalloping areas. In shallow water, it is possible to wade for scallops in the seagrass, or to collect them from a shallow-draft boat using a dip net or landing net, but these methods are not very productive. Most scallopers go by boat into water 4 to 10 feet deep where they anchor, put up their dive flag, and snorkel over the beds, collecting the scallops by hand.

Care and Handling

When brought to the boat, scallops should be immediately placed on ice in a cooler for the trip to shore, unless you decide to clean the scallops while on the water. Scallops are quite sensitive to dry conditions, so be sure to keep them cool and moist. They will usually die shortly after being placed on ice, especially if fresh water gets into their shells. Placing them on ice, however, makes them easier to open, because the muscle holding the shells together relaxes. A scallop, clam or oyster knife, or even a teaspoon, can be used to open the shells and cut the white muscle free, discarding the shells and unwanted soft parts. Although most Floridians only eat the scallop muscle, in many other parts of the world the entire animal is eaten, much like we eat clams and oysters. If this is done, scallops should be fully cooked because many open harvest areas for scallops are not classified for harvest of other shellfish species.