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Survey Says: Scallop Numbers Are Up!

Scallopers should have no problem filling their limit of scallops this season, as state researchers have found near-record numbers in their annual survery of popular scalloping grounds.

Over the past few weeks, Florida’s scallop expert, Steve Geiger of the FWC’s Fish & Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, once again led the annual “scallop census.” All but one of the five scalloping areas show substantially higher numbers of scallops this year (see graph).

Geiger said that scallops were “patchy” in some areas, with large numbers founds in some areas and very few in others, but overall there were “good scallop numbers statewide.”

You can assist FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at http://svy.mk/bayscallops. Harvesters can indicate where they harvest scallops, how many and how long it takes to harvest them. You can also email [email protected] to ask questions or for more information.

Scallopers have an extra three weeks to bag scallops this summer, as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has announced the recreational bay scallop season opened a week early on June 25 and will be extended two weeks (ending on Sept. 25).

This means three extra weeks for visitors and residents to enjoy this low-cost, fun family activity at Florida’s prime scalloping grounds located off the coasts of Steinhatchee/Keaton Beach, Homosassa/Crystal River, St. Marks/Lanark Village, Hernando County and St. Joseph’s Bay.

The Florida bay scallop, a bivalve mollusk, grows and lives in shallow (4 to 10 feet deep) seagrass beds, making it easy and fun for the whole family. A snorkel, mask, fins and bag are all you need to enjoy the sport.

Open scalloping areas on Florida’s Gulf coast extend from the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the Pasco-Hernando county line near Aripeka. It is legal to take bay scallops only within the allowable harvest areas, and it is illegal to possess bay scallops while you’re in or on state waters outside the open harvest areas, or to land bay scallops outside the open areas.

There is a daily limit of 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person during the open season. In addition, no more than 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one-half gallon of bay scallop meat may be possessed aboard any vessel at any time.

Scallopers are allowed to harvest bay scallops only by hand or with a landing or dip net, and bay scallops may not be harvested for commercial purposes.

Unless otherwise exempt, scallopers will need a regular Florida saltwater fishing license when using a boat to harvest scallops. Those who wade from shore will need a regular Florida saltwater fishing license or a resident shore-based license.

Divers and snorkelers are required to display a “divers-down” flag (red with a white diagonal stripe) while in the water. Boaters must stay at least 100 feet away from a divers-down flag in a river, inlet or channel. In open waters, boaters must stay 300 feet away from a divers-down flag.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages everyone to adhere to scallop fishing regulations and collect only the amount of bay scallops they are willing to clean.

More information on bay scallops, including management rules, dive-flag regulations and boating safety is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Regulations” under “Saltwater Fishing”). Information about scallop research is available at MyFWC/Research/Saltwater under the “Mollusk” section.