One of Florida’s favorite pastimes, scalloping is a fantastic way to experience the raw beauty of the bays of Northwest Florida’s Forgotten Coast while also gathering the star ingredient for a fresh Gulf Coast feast. With no commercial harvest of bay scallops permitted in Florida, it’s also the only way to bring this coastal delicacy to your dinner table. The Forgotten Coast is a 1-2 hour scenic drive from 30A, and a scalloping trip is the perfect excuse for a day trip or weekend away.
So how are scallops collected? Imagine the ultimate scavenger hunt underwater in some of the most stunning coastal destinations in the entire state. Bay scallops are harvested by snorkeling through grassy beds and collecting by hand or with a dip net. The grass beds can be accessed by boat, paddling a kayak or paddleboard and wading in shallow waters.
Scallops are found in the bays of both Gulf and Franklin counties, and seasons are regulated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The 2020 scallop season in Franklin County began July 1st and runs through September 24th while the Gulf County season begins August 16th and ends September 24th.
“Scalloping with your friends and family is classic Florida fun in the sun,” said former Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Chairman Bo Rivard. “The season brings people and an economic boost to these coastal areas, all the while encouraging conservation and connecting residents and visitors to the wonders of Florida’s outdoors.”
Scalloping is fun for all ages and snorkeling the grass beds allows you to get up close and personal with all the coastal creatures that inhabit them. Don’t be surprised to find starfish, sea urchins, a variety of fish and more on your underwater adventure!
Scalloping Facts + Tips
- Scallops are harvested by snorkeling the shallow grass beds of the bays where they thrive and can be collected by hand or with a dip net.
- The St. Joseph Bay and Gulf County region includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.
- The Franklin County region (including Carrabelle, Lanark and St. Marks) includes all state waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.
- Bag and vessel limits in open bay scallop harvest zones are 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 of bay scallop meat per vessel. A Florida fishing license is required.
- Scallops are usually found in seagrass beds and are easily distinguished from other bottom-dwelling animals by their electric blue eyes. They can swim by opening and closing their shells making them sometimes more difficult to catch!