< Scalloping in Florida - Florida Go Fishing
Florida Go Fishing man holding snook fish


By Captain Rick Moseley, Scales N Tales Charters

Scallop Season June to September - Dates Vary Annually

Group of boys with scallops in 5 gallon buckets on a boat

Scalloping can be the greatest thing going on in the water during June, July, August, and the first 24 days of September, but in order to have the most fun you must know how, where, when and what the state rules are.

When scallop season opens there will be so many boats over the scallop beds that you can almost walk from one boat to the other. After that every weekend the waters of the west coast of Florida will be covered with boats.

Click the regional Bay Scallop Seasons image below to see the current guide for each area.

map showing the scallop harvest areas in Florida and the legal dates to harvest scallops in 2019

The allowable area runs are from the Pasco/Hernando county line near Aripeka, latitude 28 degrees, 26.016 minutes north to the west bank of the Mexico Beach canal in Bay County Longitude 85 degrees, 25.84 minutes west. Any bay scallops harvested must be landed within the allowable area.

Bay Scallop
Click Image to Enlalrge - Courtesy of FWC

Daily Bag Limit

IN SHELL: 2 gallons per person or 10 gallons per vessel


SCALLOP MEAT: 1 pint per person or 1/2 gallon per vessel

This means that if you have 6 people on board you can only harvest a maximum amount of 10 gallons.

License Requirements

A saltwater fishing license is required for every angler 16 and older except Florida residents 65 and older.

Now that you know where you harvest them, you know your bag limit, and you know when, all you need to know is how. Most of the time a boat is required to get out to the scallops. Be sure your boat is in good running condition and that you have all your required safety equipment on board. There are a few places in the allowable area that you can wade, be sure to wear water shoes to protect your feet. One of the wade areas is Hagens Cove on the Taylor County coast.

Most of the time scallops are found in 2 to 4 feet of water. For those scalloping from a boat, remember a dive ladder is necessary to exit and enter the boat safely. You need Snorkeling Gear - a mask, snorkel, a pair of fins and a dive bag for every person planning on scalloping. You must be a strong swimmer; sometimes the current is very swift. It is advisable for those teaching their children to scallop not to put them in the water if they are not strong swimmers. Also you may wish to start in the shallow water and watch your tides, as the tide comes in the water gets deeper.

Important: A dive flag is required on every vessel and must be displayed where it is visible 360 degrees in all directions, this means at the highest point above anything else on your boat, not tied to your stern light. An easy way to display it is using a piece of 1" PVC attaching your flag to it. PVC is available at most hardware stores and comes in 10 ft. lengths which is plenty high to display it above your Bimini top. The flag must be of required measurements of 20" x 24" when you are diving from a vessel and 12" x 12" when you are going from shore. You can buy a flag at Walmart, any dive shop, and most marinas. When entering an area where divers are in the water you must maintain idle speed when you are within 300' of a dive flag displayed on a vessel. When you move and your vessel is underway your flag must be taken down and only displayed when you have divers in the water. One dive flag one the boat covers all snorkelers as long as they stay within a 300' area of your boat. We like the small float dive flags, 1 per person, that is attached to the snorkeler with a line. This is extra protection incase the snorkelers strays outside of the 300 foot radius of your boat.

snorkeler scalloping with a dive down flag

When you are in the water it is a great idea to raise your head up and see where your own boat is periodically, many times I have had people come up by my boat thinking it is theirs and be 600 or more yards Little girl with mask on ready to go in the water from a boatfrom theirs. Should you get into trouble try to hail someone for help. A good idea and very inexpensive is to buy a whistle and hang around your neck, just be sure the little ball in the whistle is plastic and not a bean, the bean is useless when it gets wet. If you are in distress blow the whistle until help comes to your aide. Another important thing to know is to file a float plan with your local marina or someone you trust to watch for your return at the time you advised them. Also I advise having a VHF radio on board and a cell phone that will get a signal from a local tower nearby from where you launched.

Be sure you have a good anchor and plenty of anchor line so you can get a good angle on the anchor. It is advisable to check your anchor when you get into the water and make sure it has dug in, if not, take your foot and push it into the sand. This is important so your boat doesn't leave you if the anchor breaks loose. An Anchor chain is very helpful on setting your anchor on a sandy bottom. Be sure your anchor is rated for the size and weight of your vessel and it would not hurt to have a second anchor as a backup if the current is strong or the wind blowing hard.

If you are already an experienced scalloper you would be doing a service for all of us to share some of this information with the novice and first time scallopers. Many people are dangerous to themselves and to the rest of us because of lack of knowledge of the waters, rules, and regulations. Let's all help them be safer boaters and scallopers. Each year more and more scallopers hit the waters and it is a madhouse on the weekends.

Family cleaning scallops on a wooden picnic table on a dockBefore scallop season opens it is time to start checking your equipment and making sure it is safe and reliable to use. Check your mask straps, put on the mask and see if you have any air leaks, you can do this by trying to inhale through your nose, if you can pull air through the sides of the mask check to see why. Your mask may need replacing. Same for your snorkel and fins. I have seen many people have to sit it out on the boat because of equipment failure.

Cleaning your catch can also be fun, especially if you are in one of the local campgrounds. Others are usually happy to lend you the advice of the dos and don'ts of scallop cleaning. Many areas have local people that will be happy to make a few dollars by cleaning them for you. Usually they will have their phone numbers posted around local convenience stores, marinas and campgrounds.

Scallop in Sea GrassNow for locating the scallops, if they are plentiful you can see many boats parked in the area of scallop beds. Although you may also run into the monkey see monkey do situation, one or two boats try an area and before you know it there are a hundred boats. Another way to find them is to go to the grass flats and idle as slow as the boat will go and have your party look into the water for them. If you begin to see a few anchor and try that spot. If they are scarce load up and move a few hundred feet. Another way of finding them is to invest a little money into a guide to take you on his boat and show you where to go. Most guides that take out scallopers spend a lot of time on the water in June scouting for scallops and storing the numbers (spots) into their GPS. Please do not call us and ask us to give you our numbers, they are our livelihood and are not to share. Also do not consider trying to bring your handheld GPS aboard our vessels, we will ask you to leave it in your car. We will be sure you get your limit and it is easy to find the spot again.

If you have any questions about the state laws governing scalloping or fishing you may call the FWC hotline, Division of Law Enforcement toll free at 1-888-404-3922. In an emergency use this number, if you see anyone committing a violation use that number or call on your cell phone *FWC, *392 or hail a FWC officer on VHF channel 16. Please remember that ch.16 is an emergency channel for hail and distress; please take your idle chit chat to another working channel. Some areas use ch.68. In N.W. Florida most go to 14 or 18.

About Captain Rick Moseley

Captain Rick on his center consile boat on the waterCaptain Rick Moseley operates SCALES N TALES CHARTERS out of Keaton Beach and Crystal River and is a U.S.C.G. licensed Master Captain. I am also a member of Florida Guides Association, a member of the National Association of Charter Boat Operators, and an IGFA designated Certified Captain. I can be reached by telephone at Keaton Beach 850-578-2627 or Crystal River 352-628-3392.

A Message from Captain Rick:

One big mistake casual boaters make - allowing children to ride on the bow. Bow riding is illegal any time a vessel is underway.I have witnessed vessels going out the Steinhatchee River pulling too much wake and with people dragging their feet in the water from the bow of another boat. This is fun but very very dangerous - if they were to fall the operator of the vessel could not stop before the person in the water went through the propeller.

More on Scallops

Scalloping is allowed in the Big Bend area of Florida during Bay Scallop Open Harvest Season.

Chart showing areas to scallop in NW Florida
Click Image to Enlarge

PDF Brochures - Citrus, Taylor and Hernando Counties

Scalloping in Citrus County Scalloping Guide  Scalloping in Taylor County PDF Guide Hernando County Scalloping Guide
Click Images to Open PDF Documents

Gulf County Scallop Areas - St. Joseph Bay

Chart of Gulf County Scallop Beds
Source: http://www.visitgulf.com/

Closed Areas to Scalloping

woman looking into reef scope underwater viewing bucket from a boat
Underwater Viewing Buckets help you see if scallops are in the sea grass before you anchor up and jump in hunting. Get this bucket from our online store!
woman looking into reef scope underwater viewing bucket from a boat

Outside of the Big Bend where scalloping is legal, many areas still have scallops, but few due to overharvesting, reduction of sea grass beds, and water quality. Southwest Florida beaches are littered with scallop shells, testament that they are out there. Trying to find one alive is a different story.


Watch this video to see Scallops under water in their sea grass habitat and notice how they swim. Having a hand net helps to capture them when they swim away.

This video shows how to clean your scallops by hand. If you search on You Tube for "shop vac scallop cleaning" you will learn another method of cleaning scallops. Don't forget to save the insides of the scallops when you are cleaning, the guts make great fish chum!

star icon Bay Scallop Regulations
star icon About the Bay Scallop
star icon Florida Sea Grant has a wonderful webpage on Scalloping in Citrus, Taylor, & Hernando Counties


A Family's Scalloping Vacation

by Lael Hazan on October 4, 2010

Scallops in a bucketSteinhatchee, Florida is a land that time forgot. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico near the Panhandle, it is an area close to ?..NOTHING.

Although it does have water access, it isn't near any beach or cities. It is exactly what the residents want, a place where they can get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

We joined four other families in renting homes at Steinhatchee Landings. It was wonderful, we shared cooking, kid watching, canoeing and eating. The children fed the donkey, played archery, and biked around the neighborhood without need for supervision. I don't think I saw a Nintendo or electronic gadget from either the kids or parents for the whole weekend. It was a perfect, relaxing, getaway.

The purpose of the getaway was not only to enjoy each others company. It was also to Scallop.

Steinhatchee is one of the last places in Florida where scallops are plentiful and from July 1 ? September 10th boats go out everyday to harvest them. Scalloping is a wonderful activity to do with kids. A mask and snorkel is all that is necessary, although having fins can't hurt. Even little children enjoyed picking up scallops from the shallow sea grass filled water.

It is good to have an experienced captain, as they are familiar with the territory and can point out where the scallops are hiding. However, once you get the hang of it, they are easy to spot, and we filled our 10 gallon quota of scallops in a few hours. Scalloping is a sustainable food activity. Scallops are mollusks that typically have a one year life cycle. The July 1st hunting date is after they have spawned and they typically perish as the water gets colder.

Once caught they are kept in a bucket of ice until cleaned. Their shells can be pried open with a special scallop knife, although a spoon or butter knife works almost as well. Remove the innards, while trying to keep the orange coral or liver section that is the sweetest part. It is the first part that spoils so it's usually removed from scallops that are sold commercially. After discarding the innards, the pearly white scallop is easy to remove from its shell. Ten gallons of scallops yields about 4 quarts of meat. Plenty with which to make a fabulous feast. Our favorite method of cooking them is to lightly fry them. They are best when eaten immediately after frying and I can let you know, there were no leftovers. The children surprised us by how many they ate. We needed more! Well?. there is always next year.

Scales N Tales ChartersThe family scalloping recount above mentions Steinhatchee and The Landings. Keaton and Dekle Beaches are only 17 miles north of Steinhatchee where Scalloping is as good and sometimes better and closer to the boat ramps than at Steinhatchee. I will personally give my clients phone numbers to call for accommodations, as I mentioned before, the earlier the better. Capt. Rick

Planning your trip early is a must since hotels and charters book early - we don't want you to miss this fun filled, family adventure. Scalloping is so popular families book their accommodations a year in advance for the upcoming season.


Scallop Recipes

Lightly Fried Scallops

by Liz Lombardi

This is my all time favorite way to enjoy Bay Scallops. This recipe is easy to prepare and the light breading allows you to taste the wonderful, sweet flavor of the Scallops. lightly fried scallps

  • Bay Scallops, rinsed and cleaned of hard muscle
  • Flour
  • Pepper
  • Milk or Half and Half
  • Canola Oil
  • Large Frying Pan
  • 1 gallon plastic bag
  • Strainer, handheld wire model is best or use a spaghetti strainer

Rinse scallops and with a pairing knife pull off the tough hard muscle from scallops, placing cleaned scallops in a single layer on a paper towel. When all are cleaned place another paper towel over the scallops, to pat dry the scallops.

Place dried scallops in a bowl with milk or half and half which allows the flour mix to stick to scallops.

Pour about a cup of flour into a one gallon sized plastic bag, sprinkle in salt and pepper. I usually add a little homemade Emeril's Essence Creole Seasoning to the flour for a little flavor (I make my own, it is less salty, no preservatives). Close the bag and shake to mix up the spices and flour. Drop the scallops into the flour, a little at a time and while holding the bag closed with a lot of air in it, shake so they get coated evenly and don't stick together. Now get out your garbage can and while holding the strainer over the can pour the scallops into the strainer, a little at a time. Shake and tap the the strainer to remove all the excess flour which will fall through the holes of the strainer. Place breaded scallops in a dry bowl. Have all scallops breaded before you begin frying, they cook up fast.

Heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil in a large frying pan to medium high (if you only have a small batch only a 1/4 inch oil in needed). Test one scallop to be sure the oil is bubbly hot. Now add coated scallops carefully into the oil making one layer, do not crowd them or they will take too long to crisp up and end up overcooked. Cook in oil a few minutes then turn gently with a wire spatula. Scallops should be golden brown. Remove to a paper towel coated plate. If you have a lot of scallops and will be doing a few batches you can put them in a preheated 275 degree oven to stay warm. Serve with homemade tartar sauce (Mayo, relish, S&P, pinch celery salt). Enjoy!


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