Monday, August 08, 2011

How To Scallop At Steinhatchee, Florida

Scalloping along the Big Bend region of Florida is a very popular late summer activity from the northwest end of the "bend" at Port St. Joe, to the southern edge of the bend in Pasco county.

Due to our location in the middle of the scalloping area, we usually go either to Crystal River or to Steinhatchee for our scalloping fun. I tend to be partial to the Steinhatchee area, because it's usually productive with beautiful clear water, and because we have so many family boating memories from this place.

We had not scalloped for about two years due to our 13 year old outboard motor finally giving up the ghost. At this point in our life, with 3 2 kids in college, buying a new motor is not in the picture, so our beloved "Summer School" sits on her trailer, waiting.

This year, my pal Captain Denny Voyles came to our rescue. One day while we were fishing together on his beautiful 24 foot Old Pro boat, he said, "Hey, we ought to get your kids and go scalloping this summer".

Well, you don't have to ask us twice.

So it was that yesterday found Denny, me, and my two daughters, Katie and Emma, floating on a warm, clear, green sea ... chasing scallops.

Wild hair 1

Wild hair 2

If you are scalloping at Steinhatchee, you will launch your boat in the river and travel out to the Gulf of Florida. There are marinas that will launch your boat or even rent  boats.
For boat owners, be aware that there is a brand new, beautiful boat ramp on the north side of the river where you can launch for a $5.00 fee.

Once in the Gulf, you turn left (south) or right (north) depending on your own "where they are" information.

When in doubt, scan for clusters of boats flying red and white dive flags. Then head that way.
Just remember, that dive flag means there are people underwater in the area and you need to keep your distance and GO SLOW

The scallops will be lying above and under the rich seagrass beds in anywhere from knee deep to 10 feet of water.
Once your dive flag is up, you hit the water with snorkel, mask, and mesh bag for collecting your scallops.

Emma and Kate with a scallop.
A mess of scallops.
This is only about 4 gallons of whole, in the shell scallops.
Legally, we could have kept 10 gallons of whole scallops per vessel, but, really, this was plenty to clean and to eat.

We take what we need, and that doesn't always mean taking the maximum amount allowed by law.
It is especially important to not be a scallop hog since the state of Florida has recently become more focused on economics than biology when it comes to scallop populations.
For two years now, they have opened the season earlier and ran it later.
In the early part of the season, when scallops are small, you might take twice as many scallops to hit that 10 gallon limit.
The longer season puts more money in coastal businesses in the short run, but what kind of long term damage does that do to the scallop population?

(Whoa, almost ranting there buddy)

I will post a separate post on how to clean scallops in a following post.
Beautiful water and beautiful skies.
Even if you don't find any scallops, you win.

The water over the seagrass beds was a little warm.
This is a screen shot of Denny's depth finder screen.
Yes, that is the WATER temperature.

Heading back in after a great day on the water scalloping.

Captain Denny at the helm.
Thanks pal.

Emma, Kate, and me.
Remember to slap on lots of sunscreen when you go scalloping ...
...especially on your back.

When you snorkel, your back is exposed to the sun for hours. I bought one of those clingy workout, quick dry shirts just for snorkeling and it worked great. It's snug so it fits like a wet suit, but it's thin so you don't get any drag in the water like you do if you are wearing a regular T-shirt.

I still used sunscreen on my back ... no need to make my cute dermatologist any richer than she is already.

So there you go, nothing to scalloping if you have a boat or a generous friend with a beautiful boat.

Next up, ... how to clean and cook  those little critters.

Also, if you want to charter Captain Denny for great Gulf fishing adventures, check out his website. There is a link to it on my sidebar.
Just expect to catch fish if you do.


Caroline said...

What a great day on the water with your kids and the Captain! Looking forward to seeing the scallop feast, not something we get to savor in SD!

Kaybe said...

I used to go scalloping as a kid on the causeway heading out to the end of Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs. We would streach canvas across an inner tube and toss the scallops in the floating tube. After a long day of snorkeling for scallops, dodging stingrays & black-tip sharks we would head home to start shucking. Alot of activity for a quart of shucked scallops but very tasty and well worth the effort.

Take good care,


threecollie said...

Oh, my, it just boggles my mind to think of going out and catching something so incredibly delicious!

Miz S said...

Looks like a really fun time!

I bet Florida old-timers have lots of good stories about feeding their families from Florida's bounty back during the Depression, or during any hard times. Have you ever posted any stories about that? I'd love to hear more about that.

Sayre said...

I adore fresh scallops, but I let my husband go get them for me. Even with sunscreen and a shirt, I wind up horribly burned so I realized early on that scalloping was not an activity for me. I noticed the girls were a bit pink on the back too!

I'll be interested to see your cleaning method. I have no objection to cleaning them once they're here!

Dani said...

What a beautiful picture of you and your girls!

MamaHen said...

Wow! what fun that would be! I've never gone scalloping and I love to eat them. YUM!!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

It looks like you had a great day. I have never developed a taste for scallops. Being a inland dweller I didn't even hear about them until I was older. No Fl vacations for me when I was a kid. It will be interesting to see what you do with them.

Felicia said...

Wow, sounds like an awesome day out! I've been meaning to try out scalloping sometime, but I wasn't sure of where/how to do it, nor the safety or health of Gulf scallops post-Deepwater Horizon. Thanks for the info--looking forward to your follow-up post!

Suwannee Refugee said...

I'm kind of in the same pickle ya'll are. No dang boat. I tried to do it in my yak last year out of Horseshoe Beach but that was a disaster. Maybe next year??

Anonymous said...

Hi FC,

Looks like you guys had a fabulous day!


Dianne Venetta said...

I LOVE it! My family and I just returned from Steinhatchee and had a great time. Blogged about it, too :)

Always nice to meet fellow Floridians...

Big Shamu said...

I want to go there!

R.Powers said...

Even here, it's a special treat!

Great memories I bet!
The good news is they are seeding Tampa Bay, so hopefully the scallops will repopulate the grasses there.

It boggles my mind too!

Miz S,
Alas, I have not.
And yes, this was a blast!

That pink one is Katie who was surfing in Jax beach the day before. She used sunscreen scalloping, but I think she already had a pink base!

Thanks! (Note it was tastefully cropped by DAD!)

It is fun even if you don't get enough scallops to keep. Just snorkeling alone is worth the trip.

As good as these were, I would still take shrimp over scallops any day of the week!

With no direct effect of the oil/dispersant here and with all the water monitoring that goes on due to the huge clam farming industry, I think these are a very safe bet.

How about Hagen's Cove?

Ab Fab!

Welcome to Pure Florida! I dropped in and read your post. Neat stuff!

In the words of Captain Piccard,
"Make it so."

Dani said...

Hehehe. Tough having girls. :)

R.Powers said...

Tell me about it.

Anonymous said...

Hi FC,

I'm back. You crack me up. I went back and looked at the picture of the three of you! Go Dad!


Sean said...

Great blog! looks like a great time. New blog on scalloping!!

Unknown said...

Is scalloping on kayak is possible? How far iinto the Golf did go? (in miles). Thank you