If you’re looking for a boating activity that’s fun for the whole family—not to mention delicious—why not try scalloping?
During the summer months, bay scallops can be found and harvested along Florida’s Gulf Coast between Pensacola and the Florida Keys—including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa. In these areas, fresh river water flows into the ocean, creating a perfect environment for scallops to thrive. And right now, scallops have had a chance to grow—which means more of their delicious meat for you to eat.
To legally collect scallops, you’ll need a saltwater fishing license. Use snorkel equipment to swim on the surface of the water and look for the scallops, which are often found in grass beds or atop seaweed. Bonus: while you’re searching for scallops, you’re bound to encounter all kinds of other marine life, including turtles, rays and sea turtles. It’s a treasure hunt that both kids and adults can enjoy.
Individuals can harvest 2 gallons of in-shell whole bay scallops or 1 pint of shucked bay scallop meat per day; per vessel, you can harvest up to 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell (or 1/2 a gallon shucked scallop meat). Once you’re back on your boat, put your scallops on ice to keep them fresh. Many local restaurants will cook your freshly cleaned and shucked scallops for a fee; we’ve also included an easy but delicious recipe below if you want to DIY.
Tips for Great Scalloping:
- The 2023 scalloping season runs through Sept. 24 (we love heading to Crystal River, Homosassa or Cedar Key, as they’re easy trips from Sarasota)
- Make sure you have your saltwater fishing license
- Bring snorkeling equipment (nothing fancy!) and a dive flag
- Venture out on a slack tide, when grass blades where scallops live stand straight
- Move quickly! Scallops can swim—they’re propelled by a jet of water when they squeeze their shells together
- Scallops can also pinch by snapping their shells shut—so watch your fingers!
- Daily limits are 2 gallons of in-shell scallops or 1 pint of shucked meat per person; per vessel, daily limits are 10 gallons of in-shell scallops or ½ a gallon shucked scallop meat.
Lemon Butter Scallops
Recipe adapted from RiverVentures.com
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 lb. fresh Florida bay scallops, cleaned and shucked
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves minced garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.
Season scallops with salt and pepper, to taste. Working in batches, add scallops to the skillet in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until golden brown and translucent in the center, about 1-2 minutes per side. Set aside and keep warm.
To make the lemon butter sauce, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in the same skillet. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve scallops immediately with lemon butter sauce, garnished with parsley.