Hernando Beach Scalloping 2024
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2024 Scalloping in Florida – The Complete Guide & Maps!

Scalloping in Florida is essentially an underwater scavenger hunt for dinner! It’s a Floridian tradition that many enjoy year after year. Florida is the only place in the United States where you can partake in this outdoor activity. Florida scalloping is a family-friendly way to spend the day on the water, catching juicy edible mollusks on many seafood menus worldwide! There are various types of scallops to be had from different regions. Florida scallops are bay scallops vs. sea scallops. They are mostly the smaller scallops. Florida scallops may be small, but they are worth catching.

Scalloping

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2023 Scalloping in Florida

We’ve been scalloping in Florida for ten years without using a tour company. We have scalloped the Crystal River, Homosassa, Hernando, and Ozello areas. In the guide, I will teach you everything you need to know about scallops, including where and how to catch them!

First of all, everyone wants to know where to go scalloping. Below, I will cover many spots. However, scalloping on the Crystal River is the best spot to start for anybody new to a beginner. I say this because the route to where the scallops are is foolproof. It requires little to no experience.

Scalloping

Thousands of boats are heading in the same direction at the Crystal River, so it’s impossible not to make it to the “spot” where scallops hang out. The Crystal River is an excellent place to scallop. The challenge of scalloping in this area is that it is popular. Before you embark on a scalloping trip, know the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulations. You must follow the guidelines and stay within limits. You will also need a Florida saltwater fishing license. FWC patrols the area, and they check boats and limits.

You can scallop without hiring a tour guide if you have a boat. But if you don’t want to purchase licenses and want to rely on professional guides and boat operators, here are some quick links to fishing and scalloping trips.

Fishing and Scalloping Trips in Florida

When Does Scallop Season Start In Florida 2024

For most counties, this year will kick off on Friday, July 1st. This is awesome, as it’s a holiday weekend! Some other counties open earlier, some later. Use the below chart to see county by county.

2024 Scalloping Seasons By County

2024 Florida Scallop Season Dates

Image Credit: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) 

Important:

2024 brings a big change for the Pasco Zone. Traditionally, the season here started on July 3rd and ran for ten days. As of 2024, it will start July 10th and run through August 18th. So, while the season for Pasco will begin later than usual, it will also run longer.

Scalloping Regulations 2024

Most counties allow 2 gallons per person (10 gallons max per boat) or 1 pint of scallops shucked per person (1/2 gallon max per boat)

2023 Recap – Did We Catch?

2023 has to be the most unusual season! Not because of the scarcity we experienced in 2022 but because of the sheer number of shark sightings.

I live in Hernando Beach, and we use the Hernando Beach Chanel to go out. Daily, there were sightings of tiger and bull sharks as far as the Mud River down to Hernando. Some groups report seeing as many as ten at a time. Now, were these reports accurate? I can’t tell you. What I can tell you is that I am petrified of sharks and, as such, did not go out until the end of the season.

As always, I caught plenty north of Bayport. It’s not exactly buckets full, but it’s a nice, full bag in a couple of hours.

Scalloping Catch 2023

2022 Recap – Did We Catch?

The 2022 season started July 1st. There were not too many boats in Hernando Beach, so sadly, there were slim pickings. Four of us were in the water, and we caught about 50! That’s about 1/4 of a 5-gallon bucket, but it made a great appetizer. 

Scallop App 2024

Local reports are terrible. Some people are only catching one or two. Some claim they have been seeing at 15 feet deep, but I seriously doubt this.

Then, there’s what they call the “three-year cycle.” A scallop’s normal life cycle lasts between 12 and 18 months, although a small proportion may live for 24 months or longer. The local population must produce enough offspring to replace itself each year or receive offspring from neighboring populations. Due to scallops’ short lifespan, their numbers fluctuate regularly.

Add to this that there’s been a highly publicized shark attack in Keaton Beach, which will undoubtedly scare off many. If you are new to scalloping, this is a very unusual occurrence.

In short, the last two years were off the chart, and we were all catching the limit – 2023, was expected to be a rough year,

What Is A Scallop

The Florida bay scallop is a bivalve mollusk similar to oysters, mussels, and clams. There are two types of scallops: bay scallops and sea scallops. The ones found on the seagrass beds of the Gulf of Mexico are bay scallops.  Florida scallops are smaller than sea scallops. Sea scallops are up to three times larger in size than bay scallops. Florida scallops (argopecten irradians) live in seagrass beds in shallow water, usually 4 to 10 feet deep, along Florida’s central and northern west coast.  They have thirty little blue eyes that glow. They often close as the eyes sense shadows when you dive down to catch a scallop.

Scallop With Blue Eyes Showing

 Scalloping

Scallop Without Blue Eyes Showing

Scallop

Do I Need a Florida Fishing License to Scallop?

If you are going out on your boat, there is no exception – you will always need a saltwater license. The only way to avoid licensing is to tour with a boat operator. The boat operator’s license will cover you.

Note, you can check state by state guidelines for fishing licenses here: Where To Get A Fishing License

How To Catch Scallops

The first time you scallop, it’s an exciting experience because you don’t know exactly what to look for. The best way to describe it is to look for tiny rock formations in shell shapes. If the sun is shining down through the seagrass, you will see their blue eyes.

Florida Scalloping

The tides on the Gulf of Mexico are typically three to five feet deep. Naturally, low tides are much easier for scalloping. The shallower the water, the better to catch. In some shallow water, no diving is required at all. You float on top of the water and pick them up as you see them! This is simple: submerging your head and reaching down in show water.  In deeper water, say five feet deep, it’s a mild dive—this is about swimming to the bottom of a shallow pool. So you locate the scallops, dive down, snatch up the scallop, and put it in your bag.

Notice how shallow the water is – you can see the bottom:

Catch Scallops

Video On How To Catch Scallops

They don’t bite per se, but they will clamp down onto a finger if you scoop them up and bag them. Suppose you don’t want to pick them up barehanded; use a glove. If, like many of the kids who scallop with us, you use a fishing net to scoop them up!

Pro Tip: It’s much easier to grab them barehanded!!!

Some people will tell you that you can identify them from their blue eyes. While this is true, you can only see the blue if the sun shines directly on the seagrass you are in. Stick to looking for the shape, and you will get the hang of it.

Once you have filled your bag, place them in a bucket filled with salt water, or they will die before you return.

Important:

  • Recreational scallopers between 16 and 65 must have a Florida saltwater fishing license. The FWC patrols the area and checks boats and limits.
  • Divers-down flags are required by law.

The 10 Best Places to Scallop in Florida

There isn’t a “best” place. Instead, there are many great places to catch scallops in Florida. Finding the ideal location boils down to trial and error. With experience, you will find your spots or learn fruitful techniques. We want to start on a shallow reef with coral surrounded by seagrass rather than diving in seagrass. We find it easier to see the scallops. If you are on a full seagrass bed, you must have full sun; otherwise, they are difficult to spot. We also aim for shallow waters, but you will be at the mercy of the tide. Sometimes, you have to be willing to do some work. Ideally, you would be in water five feet deep or less. Another trick that never fails is to follow the crowd. If boats are sitting on a spot, there are scallops there.

Here are some of the most popular locations to catch scallops, and of course, everyone has their favorite spots!

Cape San Blas Scalloping

Where To Stay in Cape San Blas

Located in the Panhandle of Florida in Citrus County is a 17-mile barrier peninsula in St. Joseph’s Bay. This is an ideal location for scalloping, especially for kids. These waters are so shallow that it’s possible to scoop up scallops with just a net. Cape San Blas is an old-school small town.  You would expect white sandy beaches, Caribbean-like water, and a laid-back atmosphere from any small town.  Cape San Blas is one of the few places where scallops can be found on sandy bottom areas and in seagrass beds.

Scalloping

Chassahowitzka Scalloping

Where To Stay in Chassahowitzka

Located in Citrus County and close to Homosassa, Chassahowitzka is known for shallow beds and is much quieter than many other locations. It’s possible to stay in Chassahowitzka and leave Homosassa and vice versa. One real bonus of this location is that you can scallop both locations but will avoid the crowds at Homossa if you leave Chassahowitzka.

Crystal River Scalloping

Where To Stay in Crystal River

Arguably, the most famous location is the Crystal River, which is also renowned for its population of manatees. The popularity of the Crystal River also makes it the easiest route for a new scalloper to take. Getting to the scallop patches is as simple as following the boats ahead. The water clarity is excellent, and you can catch scallops in three to five feet of water on a low tide.

If you are interested in learning more about Crystal River see here:

Hernando Beach Scalloping

Where To Stay in Hernando Beach

The lesser-known Hernando Beach is just south of Homosassa, which brings some advantages: no crowds, a quick ride out to the reefs, and stunning turquoise water.

And, now you can book the Brit On The Move House in Hernando Beach! 

Homosassa Scalloping

Where To Stay in Homosassa

Homosassa is the choice of most native Floridians.  Generations of families have spent year after year catching scallops here. There’s always a debate about whether Crystal River is better than Homosassa, and while everyone has their own opinion, it is a great spot. Homosassa is a beautiful small town that captures an old-town feel. Arguably, Homosassa is the most popular spot. And, for sure, it is the least packed with tourists.

Hernando Beach Scalloping 2021

If you are interested in learning more about the Homosassa see here:

If you are interested in learning more about the Homosassa see here:

Scallops

Keaton Beach Scalloping

Where To Stay in Keaton Beach

Further north of Steinhatchee and heading to the Panhandle is the small fishing town of Keaton Beach. Scallops can be found in three to five feet of water, making Keaton Beach and surrounding areas a great place to scallop.

Ozello Scalloping

Where To Stay in Ozello

Ozello is in between Crystal River and Homosassa. Many don’t even realize that you can reach the scallops from here. There is one slight catch! The waterways to the Gulf of Mexico are not very well marked, and the water is shallow. This is the difficulty, and it is not a location for beginners. Even with GPS, it’s a rugged trail to follow. I can tell you from experience that we did it twice and ended up waiting for a local (Florida residents) to pass for us to follow. This said, if you are a confident boater and are willing to give it a shot, you will avoid all crowds and yet get to the scallop beds nestled between Crystal River and Homosassa.

Hernando Beach Scalloping 2024

Port St. Joe Scalloping

Where To Stay in Port St. Joe

Port St. Joe is located between Panama City and Apalachicola, on the edge of St. Joseph Bay. This location differs because you can walk to the mud grass flats and catch scallops. The low tides expose the flats, enabling people to walk out and catch scallops. All you need to do is have a good look, and you’ll find the scallops.

Steinhatchee Scalloping

Where To Stay in Steinhatchee

Steinhatchee is the perfect place for many because scalloping opens a few weeks before Crystal River’s season. Avid scallopers head north to get a few weeks in before the other counties open up. The main challenge in Steinhatchee is the water’s clarity, which varies based on the amount of rainfall. This said, don’t be dissuaded. You need to get out there and find the right spot – a clear spot.

Yankeetown Scalloping

Where To Stay in Yankeetown

Yankeetown is a charming coastal village on the northwest coast of Florida. Ride the Withlacoochee River to the Gulf of Mexico. You can find scallops in Mangrove Point. Plugin these GPS coordinates to reach the scalloping area: Marker 18 A Withlacoochee Channel 28.59.005 N – 82.47.543 W To #39 Area Power Plant (Barge Canal) 28.56.317 N

Florida Scalloping Boat Launch Locations – With Maps

To view a detailed list of boat launch locations, check out this guide.

MAPS – How To Get To The 2024 Scalloping Locations in Florida

2024 Scalloping in Florida Map – Crystal River

You need to launch into Kings Bay, hook a left, and follow the boats heading to the right once you see the marina on the left-hand side. Keep going until you get to the mile markers.  You will see the nuclear plant to the right as you approach the mile markers. We use the nuclear plant as a landmark, as you can see it for miles. It can be hard to see the mile markers depending on the weather, but you can always see the power plant.

As you approach the mile markers, on the left-hand side is Shell Island. Shell Island is a fantastic place to hang out and an excellent fishing spot. You will see lots of boats parked on Shell Island. If you land here, check out the driftwood, which provides beautiful photography, or try your hand at landing some fish.

Directly after Shell Island, you will see the channel entrance to the mile markers. Enter the mile markers and follow them to the very end. When the mile markers end, go left and south. You can’t go wrong. Just follow the other boats south. After a mile or two, look to the horizon. You will see thousands of boats dotted across the ocean. I’ve included a map showing the route from The Plantation to the Scallop Beds.

Crystal River Map

2024 Scalloping in Florida Map – Hernando Beach 

To get to the scallop beds from Hernando Beach, you only have to take the channel to the end (marker zero) and hook a right towards Bayport. A short distance out, you will be in the scallop beds.

Hernando Beach Scallop Map

2024 Scalloping in Florida Map – Homosassa

Considered by many homes of the best scalloping spots in Florida, Homosassa is known to Florida. The two locations are different, but you will end up in the same place no matter where you started. One unusual thing is that there will be more scallop cleaners on the way back into Homosassa. There are hysterical jokesters on the river who will harass you in a friendly manner.  I also found the cleaning services slightly less expensive in Homosassa. I’ve included a map to see the route from Homosassa.

Homosassa

Floating Mats & Inflatable Floating Water Mats

Consider inflatable mats or foam mats if you are an avid scalloper or boater. They are not only perfect for rest but also provide the perfect marker for those out-finding scallops! Floating foam mats are my personal favorite, but you can compare the most popular ones here:

floating water mats

How Many Scallops Can You Harvest?

Per person: 1-gallon whole bay scallops in shell or one cup shucked; per vessel: 5 gallons whole or two pints shucked. It’s worth pointing out that the FWC is on the water and does check boats. Your only way around the limits is to make several runs out to the scallop patches.

How To Clean Scallops

On your way back in, you have options. One is to take your catch home and clean and cook it yourself.  Another is to stop back in and let a scallop cleaner clean your catch. It costs about $20 per bucket (and prices rise annually). Alternatively, you can take your bounty to a restaurant or another launch spot and pay to have them cleaned. Once your scallops are clean, you can take them to various restaurants that will cook your catch for a nominal fee.

Self Cleaning Scallops

There are two methods to clean a scallop – both ways are demonstrated in the video below:

Clean a Scallop By Hand With a Knife:

  • Open up the shell and begin shucking by inserting a knife into the side of the shell to pry it open.
  • Carefully slide the knife under the meat of the scallop to remove it from the shell.
  • Remove the dark meat, the orange piece, and any remnants, leaving the white flesh intact.

Clean a Scallop By Hand With a Shop-Vac:

  • Open up the shell and carefully slide the knife under the meat of the scallop on one side only.
  • Take the side with the meat and the gunk you don’t want, and use the shop-vac to extract everything but the meat.
Hernando Beach Scallops

Which Cleaning Method Works Best?

Well, the truth is both methods require work. Everyone has their preference of which is best. If you have a large group, the shop vac method can be more effective if you create an assembly line.

Should I Worry About Sharks While Scalloping?

Like any other ocean, the Gulf of Mexico has sharks. However, most are migratory and don’t stay long. There will also be too much action for sharks unless you have found a location for yourself.

You can expect to see loggerhead turtles and a wide variety of fish. One fish that shows up all the time is the Remora. These fish have a flat head, a suction plate, and a dorsal fin. The first time I saw one, I assumed it was a shark. Fortunately, it’s just a fish. They are annoying, though, and will follow you around.

Remora Fish

Remora Fish

Frequently Asked Questions About Scalloping in Florida

When will the 2024 Scalloping in Florida Open?

2024 Florida Scallop Season Dates

It varies by county; see the attached guide.

Where can I find scallops in Homosassa?

Homosassa

In Homosassa Bay, please see the above maps.

Where can I find scallops in the Crystal River?

Crystal River Map

Technically in the same place as Homosassa, you start at a different location. Please see the above maps.

Where can I go scalloping?

2024 Florida Scallop Season Dates

The following counties are involved: Gulf, Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor County, Dixie County, Levy, Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco. 

Do you need a license for scalloping? 

Florida Fishing License

Yes, you need a saltwater fishing license to harvest scallops.

When Is the Best Time Of Day To Scallop?

Scalloping

Die-hards will tell you the early bird gets the worm. I don’t follow this advice. The scallops are there morning, noon, and night. The best time to scallop is midday because there is full sun, and the vision under the water is the best.

Can you Scallop in the Atlantic Ocean?

Hernando Beach Scalloping 2021

No, you cannot scallop in the Atlantic Ocean. Scallops are only found on the west coast of Florida.

List of things additional tips to consider:

  • Always check the weather before you go and be back in before any storms. This is the most important thing you need to do.
  • Stay with the crowd and follow boats out and in.
  • Make sure your dive flag is visible to all.
  • If you have children on board, ensure they always wear their life jackets.
  • If you go to the scallop areas other than Crystal River and Homosassa, check the season dates on the maps above, as they differ!

You should not dispose of scallop shells in channels, canals, marinas, springs, or boat ramps.

If you want to clean your boat after scalloping, move it away from other scallopers’ areas. Cleaning your catch while others scallop isn’t fun.

The Gulf of Mexico should not be channeled, canalized, marinated, or filled with springs or boat ramps to dispose of shells and soft tissues. Removing the shells would be costly if shells fill in these areas, and wildlife and navigation may be adversely affected. Also, dumped shells and tissues in areas with little to no current do not disperse to the surrounding areas and may cause bacteria and algae blooms to increase. In addition, shells that are discarded in shallow swimming areas, like springs or sandbars, can cause severe injuries to swimmers.

If you clean your catch on shore, shells can be disposed of in a lidded trash can, or they can be used for crafts and garden covers. You might try hanging the shells in water using a net bag. Small fish and crabs will clean your shells.

Florida Scalloping

Closing Thoughts

If you haven’t scalloped yet, you should. It’s fun, great exercise, and a good old-fashioned way to spend time with the family. It’s also one of the best travel experiences in Florida. As a bonus, it provides you with sea-to-table fresh food.

You have so many great options in Florida to catch your limit. Good luck, and let us know how you do!

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8 Comments

    1. Hi Faith,
      I’ve noticed that too and it’s silly. Once you get out there the entire region is packed with boats – it’s all but foolproof. And, when people tell you that they have special spots it’s kind of sort of a myth. You can roll on patches and hit but they are all in the same bay if that makes sense:) Seriously, if you need help with routes let me know. We just bought a home in Hernando and this is going to be a new starting point so coming up from the south end :) Nikki

    1. Hey Emily,
      That’s a great tip:) I will add it… What’s the average cost to rent for the day? Also do they have the governor on the motor? Thanks again for sharing:) Nikki

  1. Just so you know, it’s possible to launch out of Yankeetown, also. Takes about 20-30 minutes by boat to scallop grounds, but it’s a lot less hassle than Crystal River or Homosassa 😉😉

    1. Hi Maria, that’s great advice thank you – I will add that tip! This year we are also going to go out of Hernando as well. We rented a house for one of our weekends. Nikki

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