There’s no shortage for day trips for adventure seekers in Central Florida. One of the easiest and most fun activities is a day of scalloping in Citrus County. The underwater quest for tasty Bay Scallops is a virtual underwater scavenger hunt aided by a mask, fins and a snorkel.
The first thing to do is head to Homosassa during Citrus County’s scallop season, which runs July 1 through September 2. The small town is nestled on the banks of the Homosassa River, a pristine nine-mile waterway that leads to the Gulf of Mexico. The prolific outflow from the 45-foot deep Homosassa Spring is what creates the scenic river’s flow.
Scallop hunters can either hire one of the local scalloping charter boats or trailer their own boat and launch it from one of the local ramps. The beautiful boat ride alone is worth the trip. Once in the Gulf, the real fun begins. Donning snorkeling gear, scallopers hunt for the hinged mollusks as they rest camouflaged in seagrass beds under five or six feet of water. Once startled, the scallops dart away and the chase is on. If successful, scallop hunters can yield a hefty bag of fresh shellfish by the end of their outing. However, finding and catching the little critters can be tricky, so here’s a quick video. If the scallops are too elusive, stop by Shelley’s Fish Market to take some home.
What to know before you go
GEAR: Mesh bag, scalloping net, snorkel, mask and fins and gloves (optional)
LICENSE: Recreational harvesters need a Florida saltwater fishing license to harvest bay scallops unless they are 1. exempt from needing a license or 2. have a no-cost shoreline fishing license and are wading from shore to collect scallops (i.e. feet do not leave bottom to swim, snorkel, or SCUBA, and harvesters do not use a vessel to reach or return from the harvest location)
LIMITS: Like all other fisheries in the State, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulates the harvesting of scallops. The daily limit is two gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or one pint of bay scallop meat per person; maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or half a gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.
BOATING: Scallopers that take their own boat should be mindful of the changing tides in the shallow waters. Scallopers can also opt to hire one of the local scalloping boats with a guide who knows the local waters.
SHELL DISPOSAL:Scallopers are asked not to discard scallop shells in the Homosassa River or Crystal River. The discarded shells can damage the seagrass habitat, as well as create sharp hazards for swimmers.