Saturday, August 25, 2007
Bay Scallops and Scalloping In Florida
Scallop season is winding down here in Pure Florida and I haven't gone yet. In fact, it's a little doubtful if I will get out there this season, which is too bad, because it's been a pretty good season.
Bay scallops are only harvested in July , August, and early September. I'm not posting dates or limits because the FWC loves to change regulations and seasons so I don't want to mislead anyone.
These little molluscs are bivalves like oysters, clams, and mussels. Unlike their bi cousins, the scallop has rudimentary jet propulsion abilities and can jet randomly about by clapping it's shells together and ejecting water.
It's not intelligent jet propulsion like the nerds of the mollusca phylum ... the cephalopods. A squid knows where it's going when it jets.
All a scallop needs is to put a foot or two between it and a creeping starfish.
Scalloping is just snorkeling with a purpose ... and sometimes with a porpoise ... although more commonly with a dolphin.
To scallop, you leap into the water with your mask, fins, snorkel, and a little mesh bag and seek out the neatly packaged morsels hiding in the seagrass beds. This is done in water anywhere from 4 to 8 feet deep usually, so you don't have to be an athlete or super diver to enjoy it. Kids absolutely love it.
Don't forget your dive flag or you will pay for that mistake ... either via a ticket from the FWC officers or via a prop to the head. Either way it hurts.
This is a live bay scallop showing it's lovely blue eyes and some of it's inner workings. All bivalves are filter feeders who slurp suspended nutrients out of the surrounding waters. Scallop eyes don't see a sharp picture, but they do sense light and dark. You can often see them react as your hand approaches for the grab. This might be just closing up shop or actually flitting about via jet propulsion.
Besides jet propulsion, scallops have a simple camoflauge scheme. One shell is dark and the other is light in color. Light side up in sand and dark side up in grass. Certainly their beautiful blue eyes help in this also.
They don't always get it right of course, which makes it easy for the scallop seeking snorkelers.
In North America, we are pretty wasteful when it comes to the way we eat these little buggers. The same people who slurp down whole clams, oysters, and mussels only eat the single adductor muscle that operates the scallop shell. The rest of the body is discarded.
There's been some research into bay scallop aquaculture and it's already done in Asia, but until Americans learn to eat the whole thing, the labor process is too expensive for good profits.
Because of that cultural oddity, the cleaning process is long and ardorous. A blunt knife (old butterknife) is slipped between the shells to sever one end of the adductor muscle, the shell is opened and a spoon is used to first tear the scallops gills and visceral mass out, and then the same spoon scoops the desired white adductor muscle off the shell and into the ice chest.
Pro scallop cleaners use a small shop vac to slurp the visceral mass away, but I just use my wife. She grew up scalloping and is somewhat of a scallop cleaning machine.
Personally, I would take shrimp over scallops any day of the week, but it is a blast to snorkel the grassflats on the scallop quest.
We don't go for our limit anymore due to the severe shortage of fun during the cleaning process. Instead, we try to get just enough for a nice scallop dinner while avoiding mass scallop cleaning drudgery.
No scallops were harmed in the production of this post. We were in Pasco county for these pics and that is south of the legal harvesting area.
The scallop pictured is still out there somewhere.