Have you ever been to Florida in the summer? There’s nothing else to say, besides “It’s HOT!” It would be a long summer if we all just stayed indoors basking in our AC, so instead we get out there and have some fun. My favorite way to enjoy the Florida sun and heat is involving water. While we all have our favorite activities…scalloping takes the cake!
Bay scallops live in the sea grass beds along the gulf coast of Florida in 4-8 feet of water. In recent decades their population has declined, leaving a few isolated areas along the gulf coast where they call home. Citrus County is one of those lucky spots! Scallops live for about a year, and die shortly after they spawn, so recreational scallop harvesting does not interfere with scallop populations as the season doesn’t start until after spawning has occurred, so don’t feel too bad while you suck down these tasty little morsels.
Ready to try it yourself? Grab a friend and give the pros a call!
We start off early in the morning to beat the afternoon thunderstorms. Jump on a boat and feel the cool morning air on your face as you zig-zag out the historic Homosassa River and the picturesque Crystal River. Relax as your captain navigates around oyster bars and rocks on your way out to the gulf. Take in the variety of wildlife. You may see herons, osprey, eagle, dolphins, manatees and more on your trek. At the mouth of the river, feel that salty air in your hair as the narrow river opens up into our backyard! Ditch the channel, and skim over the glassy, clear gulf waters while sponges, fish and grass beds fly by. Keep a close eye out, you may even spot a shark, stingray or sea turtle out there!
After a thrilling ride out to the the scallop grounds, choose your spot, drop anchor, hoist your dive flag and jump in! Leave your worries, stress and daily life behind as you dive into another world. Once in the water, relax, breathe and focus! Forget everything and just enjoy the hunt! Snorkel slow, speed swim or just float with your eyes fixed on the grass below and wait for the first glimpse of their beady blue eyes just waiting to be found. They can hide under the grass or sit right on top, but once spotted, don’t let them out of sight because they can be very sneaky and disappear in the blink of an eye. Take a deep breath and dive down, grab the scallop quickly from behind so he doesn’t get away or pinch your fingers as he closes up. Once you’ve got him in your grasp, stash him in your bag and make a quick scan around you. When there’s one, there’s usually a couple more! You’ve done it, gotten your first one! But be careful, because that’s where the addiction begins! It’s like an Easter egg hunt for adults! Once you’ve started, you just can’t stop until the buckets full or its time to go!
After reaching your limit, it’s time to clean them! Some people clean them on the boat, some clean them at home, and others drop them off at our local scallop cleaners, while they shower and clean up. I personally find that you’re missing out on the experience if you don’t clean them yourself. It’s easy, but time consuming. Grab a knife or spoon and get to work! One at a time, pry them open, clean the guts out and save the tasty muscle for dinner. A full catch can last one meal or several days depending on how many people you have over! They can be deep fried, grilled or sautéed to perfection for a fresh end of day treat! My favorite scallop dish is pasta with zucchini, summer squash, garlic, dill and a splash of white wine. What a delicious sauté!!
Scalloping is not all about bringing dinner home, its about adventure and friendship! Get out there, forget your life, and have some fun!