5 Best Scalloping Spots in Florida
To help you take advantage of this year's scallop season, this article gives you the low-down on five of the best scalloping spots in Florida.
In many of these locations, scallops can be caught from either a boat or by wading off the beach, allowing anybody to go out and harvest their limit of Florida bay scallops.
Catching scallops is fun, relatively easy, and a great way to spend a day in the water. Scallops are abundant throughout Florida's Gulf Coast waters and you need minimal gear to get a bag full.
To go scalloping in Florida, you'll need the following:
Florida saltwater fishing license for anyone between the ages of 16 and 65
A diver down flag, whether scalloping from a boat or while wading
Swim fins (optional)
A mesh bag to hold your catch while scalloping
For a full list of regulations for scalloping in Florida, head to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website:
An hour north of Tampa, miles of prime scallop habit are found in the waters near Homosassa, Florida. Fed by the prolific Homosassa Spring, the Homosassa River moves through a large expanse of islands and marshes before depositing its nutrient-rich water into the Gulf of Mexico.
Some of Florida's best scalloping is found in the grass flats of the Homosassa area, which are accessible by traveling down the Homosassa River by boat until you reach the warm, salty water of the Gulf. If you have your own boat, there are several boat launches in the town of Homosassa along with scallop cleaning services to properly dress out your harvest after a long day in the water.
If you don't have your own boat, there are dozens of guide services and charter boats manned by the friendly Homosassa residents that will take you out for an unforgettable day of scallop hunting.
You'll find more top-notch scalloping just north of Homosassa in the Crystal River area — an area surrounded by natural beauty that can only be found on the Florida Coast. The Crystal River is fed by over 30 springs before it pours into the Gulf, creating one of the best scalloping spots in Florida.
Several boat ramps in the town of Crystal River provide easy access to the scallop grounds and many guide services in the area will take you out if you don't have your own boat.
In addition to the abundant scallops, the Crystal River area is world-renowned for its population of manatees. Around 40 manatees call the river system home, and every winter more than 400 manatees move into the area for an annual visit. So if you love wildlife and want to collect some scallops, there's no better place than the Crystal River.
Heading even further up Florida's Gulf Coast will bring you to Steinhatchee, an area Floridians lovingly call "Sportsman's Paradise." World-class fishing, hunting, and of course, scalloping make Steinhatchee an all-around great place to visit.
Steinhatchee offers excellent opportunities to collect scallops in the shallow waters along the beaches, making it a great place if you don't have a boat. Simply wade out, snorkel above the grass flats, and when you spot a scallop, dive down and grab it!
If you do have a boat, the town of Steinhatchee has several boat ramps to reach prime scallop grounds out of reach of wade-scallopers. And of course, there are many licensed guides in Steinhatchee that know the best scallop spots and will help you catch your limit.
Port St. Joe is tucked away in an area known as "Florida's Forgotten Coast" on the Florida Panhandle. Just a two-hour drive away from Tallahassee, Port St. Joe is the location of the annual Florida Scallop Festival and is without a doubt one of the best scalloping spots in Florida.
From the white sand beaches in and around Port St. Joe, you can wade out into the pristine water and fill up a sack with fresh bay scallops. Across the bay from Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, a narrow peninsula, provides more access to fertile scallop beds.
In addition to the great scalloping, nearly all of the water surrounding Port St. Joe and Cape San Blas is booming with delicate aquatic life including tropical fish, starfish, and other species that take refuge in the miles of grass beds.
If you're looking for a great place to take the entire family scalloping, Port St. Joe is the place. The many hotels and restaurants in downtown Port St. Joe provide everything you need for a relaxing vacation, but if camping is more your style, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park offers nice campgrounds and cabin rentals as well.
A lesser known, but still very good, scalloping spot in Florida is Keaton Beach. While there aren't as many wade-scalloping opportunities in Keaton Beach, the waters 1 to 2 miles off the shore are covered in rich seagrass that's home to loads of scallops and other aquatic life.
If you have an RV, the Old Pavilion RV campground provides a great jumping off point to explore the entire area.
After you've caught your limit of scallops, it's important to tend to your catch right away to preserve their tender, delicious meat. Put your scallops on ice as soon as you get them to the boat to keep them fresh and to get their shells to open slightly.
Most people find that it's easier to take their iced-down scallops to a scallop cleaning service to have them cleaned and prepared properly. But if you want to do it yourself, use a scallop or oyster knife to pop open the shell and cut the muscle free. It takes some practice to keep as much of the meat intact as possible, and it's helpful to first watch someone who knows what they're doing.
Then it's time to fry them up and feast!
The scallop season only lasts for a few months, so be sure to make the most of it by heading to one of five best scalloping spots in Florida.