How to Harvest, Equipment needed and Handling of Scallops


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.