Scalloping is a tradition every Floridian has to experience, and there's nothing quite like snagging those succulent bay scallops right from their cozy seagrass beds. It's a treasure hunt like no other!

The season in Florida is a relatively short window and you don't want to miss the opportunity to score the freshest of bay scallops from the seashore.

If you live in North Florida and are looking for opportunities for family fun, it's time to learn more about scallop season. Read on to learn more.

What Are Scallops?

The Florida Bay Scallop is a Bivalve Mollusk that grows in the seagrass beds of the Gulf of Mexico. These scallops filter the salt water for nutrients that suspend in the water column and fall into the seagrass once they are fully developed.

Bivalvia means that the scallop has two halves to its shell, which the scallop will open and close when it sees shadows in the water. Interestingly, the bay scallop has blue eyes which are used to monitor the light around it.

Our Florida bay scallops live fast and die young, rarely making it past a year of age. But in that short time, they grow their shells to an average size of three inches. And they've got style too—their top shells sport a dark mottled color while the bottoms shine bright white.

They also open their shells to eat and breathe. The bay scallop opens its shell and filters algae out of the water when they eat. They also pull oxygen from the water so they can breathe using gills inside their shell.

Scallop Season in Florida

Harvesting Florida bay scallops
Harvesting Florida bay scallops. Photo: FWC

Most people are familiar with scallops because of their delicious sweet flavor. It's the reason that Florida's scalloping is an annual tradition dating back to at least 900 AD.

Each summer thousands of locals and visitors alike travel to various locations around the state to partake in this activity. The scallop season runs from Pasco County through the Florida Panhandle in Gulf County along the west coast of Florida.

Florida Regional Bay Scallop Season 2023

The scallop harvesting season takes place in the greater bay region of central Florida's west coast waters. It runs from July 1 to nearly the end of September in different sections of the west coastline.

Franklin and Northwest Taylor Country have their scallop season from July 1 to August 24. Likewise, Levy, Citrus, and Hernando Counties' scallop season run during the same period.

The Fenholloway and Suwannee River Zone scallop season runs from June 15 through Labor Day. Pasco County scallop season starts the third Friday in July and runs for ten days.

If you're looking for a late-season chance at scallops, the Gulf County season runs from August 16 to September 24.

Florida regional bay scalloping season 2023
Regional bay scallop seasons along Florida’s west coast and panhandle. Map courtesy FWC
Region Start Date End Date
Gulf County Zone Aug 16 Sept 24
Franklin - NW Taylor County July 1 Sept 24
Fenholloway - Suwanne River Zone July 1 Sept 24
Levy, Citrus and Hernando Counties July 1 Sept 24
Pasco County Zone July 1 Aug 6

What You Need to Do to Be Ready for Scallop Season

If you're ready to give this activity a try, it's important to know a few things. You need a license, in some circumstances, and the right equipment for a successful experience.

Here's what you need to know to be ready for scalloping season.

Florida Fishes Licenses

Now, before you dive headfirst into this scalloping extravaganza, let's cover the essentials. 

First, if you're wading along the shore, no fishing license is needed. But if you're venturing out on a private boat, grab yourself a Florida saltwater fishing license. 

Or, for a hassle-free option, join a scallop tour boat—they'll take care of the license and even provide the necessary equipment.

Daily Bag Limits

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission carefully monitors the bay scallop population from year to year. It seems the scallop population has a natural ebb and flow in density that varies over a five to seven-year period.

Because of this they do have bag limits restricting how much you can harvest at any one time. These limits include:

Gulf-NW Taylor County and Levy-Pasco County

  • Per Person: 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat
  • Per Vessel: Max of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1⁄2 gallon bay scallop meat (1⁄2 gallon = 4 pints)

Fenholloway through Suwannee River Zone

From June 15 30:

  • Per Person: 1-gallon whole bay scallops in shell or one cup shucked
  • Per Vessel: Max of 5 gallons whole or 2 pints shucked

From July 1 Labor Day:

  • Per Person: 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat
  • Per Vessel: Max of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or 1⁄2 gallon bay scallop meat (1⁄2 gallon = 4 pints)

Individuals can't exceed their limits even when aboard a scalloping vessel.

Photo by Evan Wise on Unsplash

Grilling and Chilling, the Safe Way

Summer in Florida wouldn’t be complete without epic downpours, magnolia blossoms, and the intoxicating smell of food cooking on the grill. But hang on a second there, partner. Barbecue grills present many safety risks that even the most seasoned grill masters may not be aware of. Read more >>

Scalloping Supplies

To catch scallops from the water, you'll need some specific supplies and you need to be ready to get into the water to look for them.

The most prepared scallop fisherman has:

  • Small dip net
  • Mask
  • Snorkel
  • Fins
  • Mesh scallop bag
  • Dive bag
  • Gloves

Once you harvest a scallop, it's important to keep it wet until you get to shore and are ready to clean them up. They are highly sensitive to going without water.

You can place them on ice, but not in ice water as it will almost immediately kill the scallop. Keeping them on ice will make preparing them easier once you get to shore since they're more likely to keep their shells open.

How to Harvest Scallops

Steinhatchee scallops
Steinhatchee scallops. Photo: Under the same moon… via Flickr

To make your scalloping adventure a success, equip yourself with a small dip net, mask, snorkel, fins, mesh scallop bag, dive bag, and gloves. And don't forget to keep those scallops wet until you're ready to clean them—these little beauties don't like going without water.

When you're out in the water, keep an eye out for scallops in four to eight feet of water near the seagrass edges. Snorkel over, scoop 'em up with your trusty dip net, and stash them in your mesh bag. But beware of their pinch—they can close their shells faster than a bidding war on a beachfront property!

Scallop Harvesting Along Western Florida's Coasts

Every Floridian should have the experience at least once of diving and catching bay scallops straight from Florida's coast. The season is now so give it a try.