- Size 0.5-2 inches
- Food Value Excellent
- Game Qualities Low
- Habitats Backcountry, Flats, Inshore
Scallops in various shapes, colors, and sizes inhabit all of the world’s oceans. These bivalve (two-shelled) mollusks are renowned for their food value, but did you know that they’re also great fun to catch on a family fishing trip? No, they’re not hard-fighting, let alone fast at swimming–they clumsily propel themselves by clapping their shells together–but chasing them down is a unique, hands-on experience. If you enjoy a good dip in sea followed by decadent, fresh seafood, Scallop fishing is for you. Dive right in!
Sea Scallops can reach up to 2” in diameter, while those found in bays are typically only ⅓ of that size. On average, you can expect 20-30 Scallops per pound.
When and Where
Scallops are everywhere! The largest number can be found in the Indo-Pacific region. These mollusks make themselves at home anywhere from low tide lines to the deep sea. Recreational anglers usually catch them while snorkeling in water less than 10’ deep. The Gulf of Mexico has some of the most productive inshore Scallop fisheries, primarily near Port St. Joe, Crystal River, and Homosassa, FL. Scallop season in the Gulf typically runs from late June through mid-to-late September.
Scallop fishing in Crystal River, Florida
How to Fish
No need for rods or reels here–you’ll be getting up close and personal with these mollusks! The basic necessities include fins and a snorkel mask, along with a mesh bag to hold your catch. Scallops don’t bite, but they can pinch if you try holding them in your bare hands for too long. Some divers use a handheld net to scoop up Scallops instead.
Scallop fishing boats use dive flags to indicate when snorkelers are in the water, and you should get one for your own boat if you plan on diving without a hired guide. It’s important to always keep one person onboard as a lookout (usually the captain), to alert divers in your group if Sharks or other hazards appear. So long as you’re a strong swimmer, Scalloping is generally safe. Just remember to keep an eye out for sea urchins, stingrays, and jellyfish. Thunderstorms are common on hot summer afternoons in the Gulf, so keep an eye on the weather, too.
Good to Eat?
Scallops are one of the tastiest sea creatures! People cook this delicacy in a variety of ways, from simple grilling and searing to deep frying, sautéing, and baking. The shells are removed during the cleaning process, but you may decide to keep them if they’re pretty. Many beachcombers collect brightly-colored Scallop shells they find on the beach, but divers have the extra advantage of enjoying a delicious meal in addition to keeping the shells!
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