Scalloping at Port St. Joe in the panhandle of Florida is a fun activity that the entire family can enjoy. Scallop season only lasts a couple of months in Florida, July to September, but during that time St. Joseph’s Bay draws visitors from all over seeking to fill their buckets with succulent scallops. Catching them is easy, cleaning them a bit harder, and feasting on them simply delicious.
Scalloping is relatively easy for beginners to learn and doesn’t require much more than a salt water fishing license and a mandatory dive flag if snorkeling. In fact, many people simply wade through the sea grass until they see one and pick it up. Others enjoy taking a small boat or kayak out a short distance into the bay, dropping anchor and collecting scallops while snorkeling over the grass beds.
Florida Bay Scallops
Scallops are a bivalve mollusk that can be found resting on blades of grass or sometimes sitting on the sandy bottom. A good way to spot them is to look for the myriad of glowing blue eyes along the edge of their shells. When startled they will try to propel themselves along by quickly opening and closing their shell to expel water, but they usually only manage to move a few inches away and can be quickly captured.
Florida scallops have a shorter life span than their northern cousins due to the warmer water and usually only live one to three years. Scallops are prolific breeders and will spawn in the fall. The larvae attach themselves to the sea grass to grow until spring before detaching and becoming free swimmers. A good-sized Florida scallop can reach four inches or more in size.
Collecting, Cleaning and Cooking Scallops
It takes quite a few scallops to make a meal, and the bigger they are the better. When scalloping it may be helpful to carry along a few additional items to make the job easier, such as a mesh bag for collecting scallops, an ice chest for storing freshly caught scallops, butter knife or teaspoon for prying, snorkel, mask, and gloves. When picked up scallops can pinch pretty hard, sometimes leaving small nicks and cuts.
Most people will clean the scallops right on the water using a butter knife or teaspoon to make opening the shells easier. Another method is to chill scallops on ice to get them to open their shells. Once the shell is open, carefully scrape out all of the brown material leaving only the white, edible adductor muscle. This can be left on the shell to be steamed or grilled later, or simply scooped into a container and saved for use in a variety of other dishes like scallop scampi, bacon wrapped scallops, or baked scallops.
Scallop lovers will also be pleased to know that each August the city of Port St. Joe hosts the Annual St. Joseph Bay Scallop Festival. Fans of scallops can enjoy fresh seafood, live music, and of course, scalloping in beautiful St. Joseph Bay. Why not plan a trip today?
This article is copyrighted by Beverly Hill