It’s June and there’s just another month until the fun begins!
New dates apply for the 2017 Florida Recreational Bay Scallop Harvest, particularly in all of Dixie County and part of Taylor County. Those two counties are the nexus of the harvest on our Natural North Florida Gulf coast.
“The 2017 bay scallop season for Dixie County and parts of Taylor County will be open from June 16 through Sept. 10. This includes all state waters from the Suwannee River through the Fenholloway River. These changes are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons.
All other portions of the bay scallop harvest zone will be open from July 1 through Sept. 24. This includes all state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.”
The fishing village of Steinhatchee, in southern Taylor County, can get very busy during the summer scallop harvest season. Boat ramps, one on each side of the river, are crowded and it’s important that users be patient, as many visitors don’t regularly use their trailers. There are several marinas at Steinhatchee, and all offer complete marine services. The Sea Hag Marina, Good Times Marina and River Haven Marina all offer lodging and boat rentals. Fiddler‘s, Roy‘s, the newly-opened Bridge End Cafe, and Kathi’s Krabs all serve excellent food.
The other port in Taylor County that is active during the scallop harvest is Keaton Beach, about 18 miles north of Steinhatchee. While there’s no marine services there at present, there’s an excellent (and seasonally very crowded) boat launch there. House and condo rentals, some with dockage, are available through Beach Realty.
In Dixie County, the towns of Suwannee and Horseshoe Beach don’t offer the immediate access to the scallop grounds, but many visitors stay there and make boat trips north towards the clear water near the Pepperfish Keys.
At the northern end of our Natural North Florida region, there’s good scalloping for folks departing St. Marks, in Wakulla County. At St. Marks, you can rent a boat or hire a guide at either Shields Marina or Shell Island Fish Camp. Both offer full supplies and good advice about the current scallop harvest.
A final word about safety and security. There are regulations from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) and the US Coast Guard regarding boat safety and dive gear. Flares, personal flotation devices, whistles, diver-down flags and recognition of speed around other boaters and/or snorkelers all come to mind. Go to the FWC’s website for information and regulations. Trailer-boaters should be careful to take time to check their trailers’ bearings, tie-downs, running lights and hitches before heading down the road to the coast.
And remember this very important rule regarding your catch. Wildlife officers from the FWC are on post during the season, some undercover, and WILL check your catch on the water or at the ramp/dock:
“Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone will be 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.”