Image information

By Michael Heller
Water LIFE editor
With a mask and flippers it’s easy to float across the surface and look down into the lush seagrass beds off Homosassa Springs, north of Tampa, to spot the scallops. “Usually scallops are in groups of two or three,” Russ Holliday, operator of Native Sons Scalloping Tours said. “Look in the thinner seagrass,” he added.
At our first stop, pickin’s were slim. The tide was ripping out and the water was silty from the flow and from the hundreds of other boats, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. I was tagging along on a charter trip with Doctor James Sensecqua and his wife Andrea, from Fort Myers. They had never scalloped before and we were all coming up with scallops.
Part of the key is not to disturb the silty bottom so you can find the second or third scallop on the same breath of air. Once you resurface it gets very difficult to relocate the same spot in the thick grass.
And don’t think scallops are sedentary victims. They see you coming and using their muscle they can emit a squirt of water to jet propel themselves away from you. Unfortunately, they only have one squirt, so they don’t get far. They will clamp down on your finger too, but it’s not a very firm ‘clamp.’ After a while, I found that I had my best luck locating scallops where the pinfish were grazing.
After our second stop we took a break and Capt. Russ cleaned a few scallops which we ate on the spot. They were sweet, firm and with just enough natural salty taste. “Some guys bring hot sauce with them when they scallop” Capt. Russ told us.
Scalloping captains, like fishing captains, seem to save their best spot for the last stop and on our last stop, right out of the boat, I found two before I resurfaced, and more on every dive.
All in all we spent about 4 hours on the water scalloping and brought back about four gallons to the dock.
Scalloping continues until the end of scalloping season on September 24. Everyone recommends going on a week-day. Native Son Charters charges $75 per person for 4 person trips and provides masks, fins and underwater mesh bags to put the scallops in. Their­­ website has all the information.
According to FWC regulations, a salt water fishing license is needed to harvest scallops, on a charter trip the license is provided. There is a daily bag limit of two gallons of whole bay scallops or one pint of meat per person; vessels with multiple people aboard are limited to 10 gallons of whole bay scallops or a half-gallon of meat per day.


Scallops need to be cleaned when they are brought back to the dock. “They get real mushy if you leave them in the shell overnight,” Capt. Russ told me.
There are numerous ‘scallop cleaning businesses’ around the marina and the docks. They charge between 3 and $5 to clean a gallon of scallops.Capt. Russ cleans his own scallops with his charters and his preferred tool for cleaning scallops is a butter knife. The idea is to hold the scallop dark side up (if you are right handed) and use the butter knife to gently pry the scallop open. The meat is closer to that one side.
Scallops open much easier than clams or oysters. Once you can get the knife inside, slide it up and around the inside of the top of the shell, this breaks the membrane that holds the scallop together. If you simply force the scallop open, you tear the meat into several small pieces. Once open, use the butter knife to scrape out the scallop’s organs (photo). It takes a few scallops to practice, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly.
The caveat of scallop cleaning is that they are sharp-edged creatures. The locals have figured out that a couple of wraps of duct tape or black electrical tape around the thumb and forefinger and some tape around the palm help to preserve the skin on your hands when you are cleaning the day’s catch of scallops.