February 22, 2024
Open Season

Photo: Romona Robbins

For Paul Cross — a scalloping boat captain and the director of operations at the Plantation on Crystal River Resort — scallop season is like an Easter egg hunt, except he’s swimming 6 feet under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and looking for bay scallops instead of hardboiled eggs.

Around the State

Open Season

Art Levy | 8/21/2023

For Paul Cross — a scalloping boat captain and the director of operations at the Plantation on Crystal River Resort — scallop season is like an Easter egg hunt, except he’s swimming 6 feet under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and looking for bay scallops instead of hardboiled eggs.

“Bay scallops are pretty sweet,” he says. “I personally like to put blackening seasoning on them and fry them with butter in a sauté pan. You can eat them like that or on top of spaghetti or linguini. What I like to do after I blacken them is put them on top of a New York strip steak with some Parmesan cheese, and finish that off in the oven. Then, you’ve got yourself a little surf and turf.”

Scallop harvesting is done along the Gulf Coast, including parts of Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Levy, Franklin and Taylor counties. The 2023 bay scallop season ends in late September.

The best hunting takes place amid seagrass growing where Florida’s spring-fed rivers release cool water into the Gulf.

Gear

You’ll need a Florida saltwater fishing license, which costs $17 a year for residents; non-resident licenses range from a $17 three-day license to a $47 annual one. Also handy, a snorkel and perhaps a small net. Most people just grab the scallops by hand.

The haul is limited to two gallons of scallops per person, or 10 gallons per boat.

Advice for Novices

“All I can say is slow down, slow down, slow down,” Cross says. “The faster you swim, the more scallops you’re going to miss. Pay attention. The water is crystal clear, and you’ll see them about halfway down the grass column. You’ll see the shell — it looks like the gas station sign — and you’re going to see rows of bright blue eyes around the edge of the shell.”

Tags: Around Florida, Agriculture, Travel & Tourism, Feature

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