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Florida Scallop Harvesting Info (Huge Guide)

Florida bay scallops as an appetizer is hard to beat!

Scallops rank right up there with lobster for me and millions of other people. In fact, since I rarely have scallops, they might even be more desired than lobster at this point in my life. Scallops are soft and flakey and have the most wonderful texture and taste.

They’re ideal for an appetizer or as part of your main meal. If you’ve never harvested your own scallops. the state of Florida allows you to do so each year during special seasons. Read on!

Florida Bay Scallops ( sp. Argopecten irradians)

A couple of decades ago there was wide-ranging scallop harvesting occuring in Florida on the commercial and recreational side until the bottom fell out of it. Poor water conditions, sea grass in poor condition and going away, and over harvesting all combined to have a disastrous effect on scallop populations.

Restrictions on harvesting were put in place while scientists figured out how to replenish the essentials so scallops cold grow in abundance again.

In late 2013 eleven million young bay scallops were dropped into the ocean around sea grass by biologists from the University of Florida at Gainesville who did studies to see whether they would reproduce and recover.

At the present time there are seasons for scallop harvesting in place from Tarpon springs and northward on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Seasons differ dramatically so you’ll need to study the maps below to stay legal.

Interesting Bay Scallop Facts

  • They have 40+ blue eyes around the edge of both the top and bottom of their shells!
  • They swim to get away when they see you coming! They’re pretty fast movers.
  • They are all hermaphrodites – having both male and female reproductive organs.
  • Shell size is largest around 3.5 inches in diameter.
  • Consume phytoplankton and dead things on the sandy bottom.
  • When just .3mm long they attach to seagrass until further developed. Lifespan is 1-2 years.
  • Octopus, conchs, rays, and crabs all feed on scallops.
  • Dirty water, red-tide blooms, and heavy rainfall can all kill scallops.

When Is Scallop Harvesting Season in Florida?

Well, it is NOT across the entire state, so you’ll have to check the maps below to see where exactly you can collect scallops and during what part of the year.

2022 Scallop Season (by County)

Scallop prepared for meal.
I don’t know what that scallop is sitting on, but I don’t even care. I’d eat that!

All of the counties listed are north of Tarpon Springs on the Gulf Coast in the north-western section of Florida and the panhandle. The laws are so difficult to understand that if I try to interpret them for you here, you’ll be more confused than ever.

You’ll need to go to this page on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website HERE and hope you can understand it.

Gulf County – scalloping season is 40 days long from August 16 to Sept 24.

Franklin County to NorthWest Taylor County – the harvesting season is 55 days from July 1 to Sept 24.

Taylor County’s Southeast section south of the Fenholloway River and stretching to the Suwannee River in Levy County has the longest season of 62 days beginning on June 5th and running to September 5th (Labor Day).

Levi, Citrus, and Hernando Counties have a 55 day season beginning on July 1 and ending Sept 24.

Pasco County season starts on the 3rd Friday in July and goes for just 10 days. So, July 15th to July 24th.

Where Is the Best Place to Collect Scallops in Florida?

According to this data compiled by the Division of Marine Fisheries Management, the best place is Taylor County. They have the highest average number of Bay Scallops found per 200 square meters than any of the other 8 counties in the 8 year survey and study. See the chart below from this page.

Graph showing number of Bay scallops found per county in Florida
Number of Bay Scallops found in 200 square meter area in 8 Florida counties over 8 years.

What Is the Bag Limit Per Day for Bay Scallops During Season?

Size Restriction? There is no minimum size limit – you can take any scallop.

Gear? You can harvest by hand or small scoop net only.

Bag Limits? The northernmost sections of the scallop harvesting map and the southernmost areas – Gulf-NW Taylor County and Levy-Pasco Counties allow 2 gallons of Bay Scallops with shells on, or 1 pint of scallop meat.

The middle section of Fenholloway River down through the Suwannee River Zone allows during June 15-30th a total of 1 gallon whole scallops in shells or 1-cup shucked meat.

From July 1 to Labor Day (5 September), the middle section allows 2 gallons whole or 1 pint shucked.

There are specific restrictions on the amount of scallops that are allowed to be on a vessel (boat) at any time. Read the details here.

What Is the Scallop Sitter Program?

This is a special program where people can volunteer to be part of the Bay Scallop conservation effort by taking an open water cage with 50 scallops inside it to keep in a safe area so the scallops can reproduce without fear of predation. You test water salinity and record other data to be part of the project. Hundreds of people do this each year in the Florida panhandle to help restore the stocks of scallops in their natural environment. Below are some photos taken during the duties of the project.

Bay Scallop Sitter program in the Florida panhandle to help increase the reproduction and survival of scallops in their natural marine environment.
Become part of the Bay Scallop Sitter program.

Licensing Requirements for Harvesting Bay Scallops

The fee for scalloping without a recreational saltwater fishing license (if you are not exempt) is $50 plus the licensing fee.

All scalloping participants need a valid recreation saltwater fishing license for Florida. You can find information about obtaining one here.

Best of luck to you this season, I hope you find a lot of scallops and share them with people who’ve never had them. You’d be surprised how many people just have never had the pleasure!