This guide to scalloping in Florida was written by Susan Veness with Veness Travel Media. Even if you don’t make it out during Florida scallop season—from July 1 through September 24, depending on the county—our editors recommend this recipe for mango and jalepeño scallop ceviche.
Let’s Go Scalloping!
As Orlando’s theme parks take their first steps toward re-opening, some visitors are eager to head back into the parks to enjoy their favorite rides, but others are seeking less crowded experiences, and that often means getting back to nature.
Scalloping has been called “an Easter Egg hunt underwater,” and for a good reason. It takes a few minutes to get the hang of what you’re supposed to be looking for, but when you spot a scallop’s tell-tale shiny eyes it’s utterly thrilling! And as you’re snorkeling above sea grasses in bathtub-warm water searching for those lines of iridescent blue eyes, you’ll quickly realize you’ve discovered a true Floridian gem.
Scalloping takes place along much of Florida’s Gulf Coast, from Pasco County just north of Clearwater to Gulf County by Port St. Joe, and runs from July 1 to September 24 (variously by county). The heart of ‘scalloping country’ is Crystal River in Citrus County—just a 90-minute drive from Orlando—and it’s easy to pick up an outfitter for one of the typical 4-5-hour guided tours.
What’s supplied for you?
A snorkel, mask, flippers (which you don’t have to use if you prefer not to; we found swimming “barefoot” was easier) and a mesh bag for holding your catch. Wacky noodles are usually available for less confident swimmers, but you’ll have to let go of it to dive down when you spot a scallop. If you prefer to scoop up your scallops in a dipping net, those are often provided, too, though we found it easier to just reach down and pick them up.
What should you bring?
Sunblock is essential, as are snacks, drinks and lunch, plus a cooler to carry your scallops home. We think it’s a good idea to wear a shirt while you’re in the water, too, as Florida’s sun can be brutal.
It’s a pleasant 45-minute journey out to the clear, shallow scalloping grounds (just 6-8 feet deep), giving you plenty of time to decide if you’re going to use the boat’s ladder to get into the water, or if you’ll dive right in and start the hunt.
With your trusty mesh bag around your wrist, you float over the sea grass until you spot a scallop, then dive down, grab it, put it in the bag and look for the next one. Often, where there is one, there are two, so take a deep enough breath to go for the double dip!
At the end of the experience, everyone’s scallops will be combined so that each group is within the limits for a day’s take, and those who may have been less successful still go home with dinner.
Unless you’ve cleaned scallops before, it’s a job you’re going to want to delegate to someone else, and several local businesses offer that service at a very reasonable price. Don’t want to bother cooking them up at home? No problem. Some local restaurants will do that job for you, too.
Time spent scalloping is family-friendly, it’s exciting, and we think you’ll come away from it saying, “Why didn’t we do this sooner!” Get more details HERE.