It’s that time again….scalloping season on the Forgotten Coast! Every year, this amazing area on the Gulf coast of Florida gears up for recreational scalloping. Adults and children alike can be seen scouring the bays for these delicacies, and restaurants begin whipping up inventive scallop dishes for their patrons. Not familiar with scalloping? Following is all you need to know…
The Florida bay scallop is a bivalve mollusk that grows and lives in shallow (4-10 feet deep) sea grass beds, commonly found in places like Crystal River, Keaton Beach, Cape San Blas and Port St. Joe. Scalloping season on the Forgotten Coast commences at the beginning of July and ends around the 4th week in September.
There is very little equipment necessary for scalloping. You will need a boat (not necessary, but best for optimal scalloping), swim mask, snorkel, a small mesh bag and a divers-down flag (which is required by law). Most scallopers go by boat into waters which are 4 to 10 feet deep, where they drop their anchor, put up a dive flag, and snorkel over the beds; gathering the scallops by hand. Without a boat, one can simply wade through the shallow waters with a dip net and a mesh bag.
Collecting scallops is simple. They can be spotted on or near the bottom of sea grass beds; and are particularly easy to see where the sand/mud bottom of the bay meets the edge of the bay grass. When approached, scallops may attempt to scurry away, but they’re not very fast and can easily be caught. Remember that when you return to the boat (or shore) with your catch, immediately place your scallops on ice, which will make them easier to shuck, as this forces the scallop to open its shell a bit.
Cleaning bay scallops is more difficult than catching them, but well worth the effort! The simplest way to clean them is to use a scallop or clam knife (a teaspoon can be used as well) to pry open the bottom and top shells, and cut away the white muscle that is attached to the shell. The scallop’s muscle is what is most commonly eaten (although there are some people who eat other parts of the scallop, as well).
The only thing to do once you’ve cleaned your scallops is eat them! They can be made in a variety of ways: sautéed, blackened, fried, in chowders and over pasta. A word to the wise…they can very easily become overcooked and dry, so be mindful of how long you’re cooking them. Bon Appetit!!
Come and join us on the Forgotten Coast during bay scallop season….we still have amazing homes available for August!
Florida has strict recreational scalloping regulations. Please review these guidelines before embarking on your scalloping excursion.
The following sources were used in writing this post: