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Get Your Snorkel And Swim Fins Ready: It's Time To Go Hunt Scallops.

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On: Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 3:44PM | By: Clay Ritchings

A little bit of good news shining through all the bad lately, Scallop season will open 12 days earlier than usual this year, giving area recreational scallop enthusiasts a head start in harvesting the mollusks thanks to Governor Crist. Florida shall open on June 19 instead of July 1 this year. The regular recreational bay scallop harvesting season in Florida occurs from July 1 through September 10 each year.

Among Florida's outdoor sporting opportunities, some of which can be pretty pricey, scalloping is possibly the oddest and the cheapest. It is strictly recreational, requires little in the way of equipment — a boat isn't needed in some areas — Scallopers will need a Florida saltwater fishing license if on a boat to harvest scallops. If harvesting from the shore, scallopers may have either a Florida saltwater fishing license or a resident shore-based license, which is free beginning July 1.

Business owners across the state asked Crist to start the season early, with the massive oil spill on everyone's mind; they wanted to make sure they didn't lose any customers. Gov. Charlie Crist said that the change was made to relieve possible economic hardships for fishing towns and communities throughout the Gulf coast. “Several people and businesses in Northwest Florida and Big Bend coastal regions asked us to please open the popular bay scallop season early this year,” Crist said in a statement.  “These folks depend upon the influx of visitors that come to their communities to scallop each summer, and they need a boost right now to help them recover from the mistaken perception that fishing throughout Florida has been affected by the oil spill, which is not the case.”

If you go; when scalloping it may be helpful to carry along a few additional items to make the job easier, such as a mesh bag for collecting scallops, an ice chest for storing freshly caught scallops, butter knife or teaspoon for prying, snorkel, mask, and gloves. When picking up scallops remember they can pinch pretty hard, sometimes leaving small nicks and cuts.

How to catch them; Once you find the grass beds slowly make your way inshore, look for other boats as this is usually a good sign and you may want to start there. Keep moving around until you find an area that has not been picked over, put out your dive flag and start harvesting. Scallops can be found resting on blades of grass or sometimes sitting on the sandy bottom.Snorkel in the 3 to 6 feet deep crystal clear waters looking for our bay scallops, a good way to spot them is to look for the myriad of glowing blue eyes along the edge of their shells. Unlike oysters and clams, scallops are active swimmers, when startled they will try to propel themselves along by quickly opening and closing their shell to expel water, but they usually only manage to move a few inches away and can be quickly captured.

I caught some, now what? Most people will clean the scallops right on the water using a butter knife or teaspoon to make opening the shells easier. Another method is to chill scallops on ice to get them to open their shells. Once the shell is open, carefully scrape out all of the brown material leaving only the white, edible adductor muscle. This can be left on the shell to be steamed or grilled later, or simply scooped into a container and saved for use in a variety of other dishes like scallop scampi, bacon wrapped scallops, or baked scallops…get out and have some fun!

Need a recipe for scallops? Check out a great dish; Bay Scallops Gratin

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