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This Week's Poll



6-13-19

Scalloping season on the Gulf

-Photo Courtesy:  myfwc.com


By Nick Anschultz


Looking for an adventure the entire family would enjoy? The 2019 Bay Scalloping Season begins June 15 in Dixie County, Florida.



With a mask, flippers and snorkel, people jump into the clear, warm Gulf of Mexico. Splashing water as they kick their feet and have heads beneath the surface, scanning and knifing through the murky bottom trying to find that elusive scallop.



Maddy Fletcher, an employee at Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee, Florida, said people come from all over to participate in the four-month long sport.



She said the beginning of the season is usually the busiest because everyone is excited. The marina depends on scalloping to help get through the slower months, which are mid-September-December.



The marina also rents out boats for guests that don’t have their own. A whole day at the opening of scalloping season, July, Saturdays in August and holidays is $249 plus tax and fuel.



Fletcher said guests need to bring dive gear and food, while the boat will come equipped with all safety equipment, two portable dive flags, a GPS and two five-gallon buckets.



Each year can vary in terms of how far boaters have to go out to find scallops. Fletcher said it depends on the amount of rain that has fallen in the area. The marina will usually tell people to go wherever other boats are going.



Captain Mike Farmer of Salt Addiction Charters has been departing out of Steinhatchee for six years. In a phone interview, he said the main thing that drives his business is summer vacations. He can go from chartering seven days a week during the summer to three or four when September comes around.



Farmer can take up to six guests at a time on a scalloping trip. He provides all the safety equipment, dive flags and licenses but wants people to bring dive gear.



A usual trip is about four to five hours long, but it can vary Farmer said. He wants to make sure guests have a great time on the water and don’t feel rushed.



Farmer said there are hot spots when it comes to finding scallops. People tend to see them in 2-6 feet of water and, the good zones tend to change year to year.



Savanna Barry is a regional specialized extension agent with the UF IFAS Nature Biological Center in Cedar Key, Florida. In a phone interview, she said every year there is an educational event in Steinhatchee at the start of scalloping season to inform boaters on safe practices and seagrass.



There have been numerous projects on seagrass restoration, some in Steinhatchee and in Crystal River, Florida. Barry said water quality and decline of sunlight could each pose a threat to seagrass.



Vessel groundings can also cause damage to seagrass roots. Barry said that grounding tends to be more common down south, but there has been an increase in this area.



According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, the seasons and harvesting zones for scalloping vary along the Gulf Coast. Dixie County is the first to begin and will run until Sep.10, while surrounding counties Levy, Citrus and Hernando won’t start until July 1.


-Photo Courtesy: Saltaddictioncharters.com