Tiny bay scallops “rule” the waters of Natural North Florida’s Big Bend during the summer months. The harvest brings visitors from all over the state, as well as many internationals wishing to snorkel for these tasty treats. Snorkeling for bay scallops isn’t about filling the freezer, but it’s about having fun one the water, followed a delicious meal.
This year (2019), there’s no doubt that the greatest abundance of bay scallops can be found in the waters of southwest Taylor County, near Steinhatchee. Most boats are heading north towards the immense grass flats near Keaton Beach, about 15 miles north. There, at least in the early part of the season, the water is clear and sighting scallops nesting in the grass is easy. Once sighted, scallops are easy to pick up, put in mesh bags and then iced down before shucking. The season in southwest Taylor and all of Dixie counties opened relatively early this year (June 15th) and remains open until September 10th. The remaining NW sector of Taylor, plus Jefferson and Wakulla counties, will open July 1 and close on September 24th.
You can bring your own boat for your scalloping adventure, or you can hire a guide for your trip. Rental boats are also available at many Big Bend marinas. However, a guide with local knowledge can make for a more relaxing day on the water!
Here’s a list of Big Bend marinas which can recommend guides for scalloping. Many offer rental boats as well as marine services.
Suwannee Marina (352) 542-9159
Gateway Marina (352) 542-7349
Horseshoe Beach Marina (352) 498-5405
Sea Hag Marina (352) 498-3008
River Haven Marina (352) 498-6709
Good Times Marina (352) 498-8088
Steinhatchee River Club (352) 498-3222
Scalloping is a family-friendly exercise. Most of the harvest happens in safe, shallow water and is fun for kids of all ages, even if they don’t “catch” any scallops. However, crowded waters and waterways call for extreme safety measures, including having required boat safety gear and paying attention to summer weather.
After you bag your limit of scallops (see myfwc.com for rules and regulations!), what next You can either undertake the task of shucking away the innards and reserving the eating part, the abductor muscle. Or you can take advantage of one of many scallop cleaning services available at many marinas, and have a cold beverage while you await your cleaned scallops.