Florida scalloping is a state tradition that goes back many years.
Thousands of Floridians and northern visitors gather at various locations around the state with their snorkel gear and buckets and take as many of the little clam-like creatures from the shallow Gulf bottom as the law allows.
The season for scalloping opens the Saturday before July 1 unless that date falls on a Saturday.
In that case, the opening date is July 1 whatever day it falls on. The season ends on September 24.
This gives you quite a large calendar window to plan your trip.
Scallops are protected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and that’s who issues the license you will need if you intend to snorkel for your scallops.
The harvesting of scallops requires you to get a Florida saltwater fishing license unless you wade into the shallow waters from shore and harvest the creatures by hand with your feet still on the bottom. This means you can’t snorkel or put your face in the water. It’s more fun and more productive to go for the license and snorkel away to your heart’s content.
The part of territory where you can harvest scallops is the Florida Gulf coast from the Pasco County – Hernando County line (near Aripeka) all the way north and west to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County up in the Florida Panhandle. The map below from FWC shows this territory.
One of the best places to scallop is the little village of Steinhatchee west of Gainesville. Several business are set up there to handle scallopers. A good place to stay is Steinhatchee River Inn who can be contacted at 352-498-4049.
First you have to get your license, and that costs $17 per person and can be bought at any of the marinas in town. Once you have the license, you will need some swim fins, a mask, a snorkel. You can harvest up to two gallons of scallops in the shell per person per day.
Boats can be rented in Steinhatchee or the locals will show you where you can go wading off shore. In either case, you will enjoy this glimpse into the hunter-gatherer aspect of our human history.
Other Gulf Coast towns are also set up to handle scallopers during season. Just Google for information on scalloping in Homosassa, Crystal River, Yankeetown, Carabelle, etc. and you will find a lot of places that are in business to help you enjoy this uniquely Florida annual event.