Seafood lovers across the Florida need wait no longer. Scallop season is open and early reports indicate that 2008 may be a banner year for these tasty bivalves.
Bay scallops, a tiny cousin of the common sea scallops you see seared on restaurant menus, are not for sale so the only way to enjoy this bounty from the sea is to strap on a mask and fins and swim. You will find these little swimmers (yes bay scallops, unlike other shellfish, do swim) in water anywhere two- to eight-feet deep.
The most fertile bay scallop grounds are found on Florida's West Coast from Homosassa to St. Joe's Bay. Steinhatchee, a quiet little fishing village near the Suwannee River, is legendary for its scallop fishery. To get started, all you need is a boat (guided trips are available), snorkel gear and a good attitude.
Scalloping is allowed north of the Pasco-Hernando County line all the way to the West Bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. The season opened July 1 and extends through Sept. 10, but do not fear, the last few weeks of the harvest are often the best since the scallops have had time to mature.
For more information, go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's website at www.myfwc.com.