Summer’s here, the sun is sweltering, and you just want to take a dip. How does combining snorkeling with with hunting for edible underwater treasure sound to you? We thought so. Have a go at Port St. Joe scalloping, and you’ll be well on the way to finding your own underwater feast. All in some of the Florida’s most pristine waters, too.
Port St. Joe has been famous for its seafood for decades, all thanks to the abundant St. Joseph Bay. This protected stretch of water lies between the town of Port St. Joe and the St. Joseph Peninsula, before filtering out into the Gulf of Mexico past the tip of Cape San Blas. Its waters are shallow, and its floor is carpeted with luscious seagrass beds. And do you know which shellfish thrives in exactly these conditions? You guessed it. Seared Scallops, here we come.
What to expect from scalloping in Port St. Joe
If you want to gather Scallops in St. Joseph Bay, you have one of two options: go it alone, or hire a local guide. Many local charter operators focus entirely on scalloping during the summer, meaning they have unbeatable knowledge about where to find the creatures. If full bags and the security of knowing you’ll be scalloping in a proven location sounds good, enlist the help of a guide. Local charters tend to run Scallop trips starting at about $350 for a three to four hour trip.
Scalloping is enjoyable for more reasons than just the promise of a good meal at the end. These little bivalves can actually shift surprisingly quickly, shooting themselves backwards by clapping their shells together. So even though you might think that locating a Scallop in the vast expanse of seagrass in the bay is challenging, actually getting hold of one is a whole different matter. And once you get one, they're super fun to look at, with a row of electric blue eyes dotted all along the shell. All this makes for one of the most enjoyable family acitivies in Gulf County.
Once you have found and captured your Scallops, you will be legally allowed to keep up to 2 gallons of whole Scallops in their shell, or one pint of Scallop meat per person. There’s a maximum of 10 gallons of whole Scallops or half a gallon of their meat per boat.
When to go
The Scallop season is strictly controlled in Florida, so make sure you’re up to date on the open season before planning your trip. Usually, the season runs from the first of July until the 24th of September, although it can be shortened or changed depending on the health of the Scallop population. For instance, in 2017, Port St. Joe’s shellfish population suffered from a naturally-occurring algae bloom in the bay, which pushed the season back to the end of September and beginning of October. You can keep up to date on seasonal openings by checking the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s website.
We recommend you pay a visit to this part of the Forgotten Coast towards the end of the Scallop season. This is when the Port St. Joe Scallop and Music Festival takes place, right by the bay in downtown Port St. Joe.
What to bring
The only mandatory things you need for scalloping in Port St. Joe are a recreational saltwater fishing license (if you are going by boat and/or swimming) and a dive flag. Go out with a licensed charter operator, and all this will be provided for you.
Other than that, you should bring a mesh bag to keep your Scallops in, an ice box, neoprene dive shoes, snorkeling equipment, and sunscreen.