By Capt. Rick Burns
Naturally, for July along our Nature Coast, specifically the Citrus County area, it’s all about the opening of scallop season which starts July 1st and runs through September 25th. If you’ve never done it there’s no better way to have good fun, a nice way to cool off, beat the summer heat and something the whole family can enjoy. And oh yes, the best part, preparing and eating em! Which, I’ll share with ya in a minute. If you have done it, you certainly can agree.
In case you weren’t aware, there are only 3 good areas left in the state of Florida for harvesting these bi-valve mollusks. Port St. Joe area up in the panhandle; Steinhatchee, Keaton beach area in the Big Bend; and our Citrus County Scallop grounds, the Crystal River, Homosassa area.
There was a time when most of Florida enjoyed Scallop harvesting. I believe one of the main reasons it doesn’t now is because of the coastal growth, development and population in other areas of the state which unfortunately brings with it, less habitat and sometimes lesser water quality. Scallops must have good water quality and grass beds to populate, grow, and thrive, and these few areas still have these features that are vital to these tasty morsels.
Here are some guidelines to insure a happy trip out for the “white gold of the gulf ”. First off, it can be quite busy at the ramp, on the river, and out at the picking’ grounds. Please, please remember to be respectful, and cautious when navigating in and around these waters. Please no BWIs – Keep it for back at the motel. We don’t need any airlifts, or water ambulances.
The preliminary reports are very good, it should make for adequate col- lections this season. The most beneficial thing a couple or group can do to enjoy a trip and be most successful is to hire a captain or guide that has been doing this for years, period. And trust me; it’s better and cheaper in the long run to hire a guide, step on the boat in the morning. Have a fun, safe and productive trip. And then step off when all is said and done. A charter that gets you out there quick for more scalloping time, has good bimini shade, good tunes or stereo to enjoy, and knows where to go and not to go to be most productive. And most importantly, one that is U.S.C.G. proper- ly equipped, licensed and insured. Book a charter service that already has what I call an umbrella saltwater license to make sure you’re covered. You sure don’t want to show up at the dock ready to go and find out you need a saltwater fishing license. Recreational harvesters are limited to 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell, or 1 pint of scallop meat per person, per day. In addition, no more than 10 gallons of whole scallops or 1/2 gallon of meats may be possessed aboard any vessel at any time.
Now, being a Florida Cracker, this is one of my favorite and easiest recipes, Fried Scallops! Prepare an egg wash by beating two eggs in two cups of milk. Season wash to personal preference with salt and pepper. I like “Everglades Heat”, or “Old Bay”. Dip Scallop meats in egg wash, drain, and then coat with any prepared seafood breading, like “House of Autry”, “Zatarans” or just 50-50 corn meal and flour. Fry quickly (1-2 minutes) in hot grease (375 degrees). Don’t Overcook! Then drain on paper towels. Add some cheese grits and hushpuppies, and…shut the front door!
So, get out, and enjoy one of the Nature Coast’s exclusive opportunities this summer. Be safe and good Scalloping, Capt. Rick…><>