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Scallopers report easy limits

Thousands of mask and snorkle-wearing scallop seekers have been busy collecting the tasty mollusks from grass beds located off Hernando, Homosassa, Taylor, Franklin, Gulf and Bay counties since the much-anticipated recreational season began July 1.

While the state’s “scallop survey” conducted in June showed numbers were down in Hernando, Homosassa/Crystal River, Steinhatchee and St. Marks (but up drastically in St. Joseph’s Bay), scallopers have reported no trouble scooping up limits off Steinhatchee, Keaton Beach and Crystal River.

Each year since 1994, state biologists survey 7-20 stations at 10-14 known scalloping areas. Surveys conducted just prior to the 2009 season off Homosassa and Steinhatchee indicated scallop numbers would be down.

However, all reports received by Woods ‘n Water indicate populations are again very good. Scallopers are easily collecting their daily limit of 2 gallons in the shell or 1 pint of meat per person. (No more than 10 gallons of whole scallops in the shell or 1/2 gallon of scallop meat may be on any vessel at any time).

Scallop season remains open through Sept. 10 on Florida’s Gulf coast from the west bank of Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the Pasco-Hernando line near Aripeka.

On a sad note, the FWC is investigating the death of a Dixie County teacher killed while scalloping off Steinhatchee July 17. Charles D. Sheppard, 60, was snorkeling southwest of Rocky Creek when he was struck by a 22-foot Hurricane deck boat with six adults and six children on board, all from Ocala.

Sheppard was pulled aboard and given first aid as he was rushed to a Steinhatchee marina, where he was pronounced dead by emergency crews after being cut by the boat’s propeller.

Initial reports indicate Sheppard was approximately 300 feet (the maximum legal distance) from his 15-foot boat (with a diver-down flag) when the accident occurred.