It’s time, bay scallop harvesters!
Get your snorkels, masks and dive flags ready. The recreational bay scallop harvest season starts July 1.
The season is regularly open through Sept. 10, but at its June 28 meeting in Palm Beach Gardens, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) extended the season two weeks.
Bay scallops can be recreationally harvested in Gulf of Mexico state waters (shore to nine nautical miles) from the Pasco-Hernando County line to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.
The recreational bag limit is two gallons of whole bay scallops or one pint of meat per person, per day, with a vessel limit of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops or one-half gallon of meat.
There is no commercial harvest for bay scallops in Florida state waters.
FWC officers will be working during scallop season to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable, safe day on the water. To help boaters remain safe they must follow all safety regulations, including having all necessary safety equipment onboard.
“With extra people on and in the water, it is especially important that divers and snorkelers properly display a dive flag and boaters steer clear of those in the water,” said Col. Jim Brown, director of the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement.
Open scalloping areas on Florida’s Gulf coast extend from the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the Pasco-Hernando county line near Aripeka. It is illegal to possess bay scallops while you’re in or on state waters outside the open harvest areas, or to land bay scallops outside the open areas.
There is a daily limit of 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person. In addition, no more than 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one-half gallon of bay scallop meat may be possessed aboard any vessel at any time. You are allowed to harvest bay scallops only by hand or with a landing or dip net. Bay scallops may not be harvested for commercial purposes.
Unless otherwise exempt, you will need a regular Florida saltwater fishing license when you use a boat to harvest scallops. If you wade from shore, you will need a regular Florida saltwater fishing license or a free resident shore-based license.
Divers and snorkelers are required to display a “divers-down” flag (red with a white diagonal stripe) while in the water. Boaters must stay at least 100 feet away from a divers-down flag in a river, inlet or channel. In open waters, boaters must stay 300 feet away from a divers-down flag.
During the season, scallop harvesters can assist FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at http://svy.mk/bayscallops. Harvesters can indicate where they harvest scallops, how many they collect and how long it takes to harvest them. Participants can also email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.
More information on bay scallops, including management rules, dive-flag regulations and boating safety is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Regulations” under “Saltwater Fishing”). Information about scallop research is available at MyFWC/Research/Saltwater under the “Mollusc” section.