The shallow crystal clear waters just off the Crystal River coast are a haven for scallopers. Scalloping is a great way to see the amazing ecosystem, get some exercise, and collect a healthy meal. This year the area scallop season will be from July 1 through September 24.
On the day of your trip you can expect to meet Capt. Casey and his large and spacious Carolina Skiff at the dock of Shrimp Landing. This dock is most of the way down the river, which reduces the time it takes to get to the scallop grounds.
There is no need to get up in the predawn hours, as finding scallops is easier once the sun is higher in the sky. It is suggested that you bring plenty of food and drinks, since swimming and snorkeling is good exercise. All the gear and licenses you need are provided by the captain.
After a short boat ride, you will arrive at the scallop grounds a couple miles out into the gulf but well within sight of land. This area is a shallow grass flat, ranging from 3-6 feet, depending on tide and location of the scallops. As scalloping is a popular activity, there will also be other boats in the area as well.
Once the captain picks a spot to begin your scallop hunt. He will deploy the dive flag, which signals to other boats to stay away and maintain idle speed for snorkeler safety. You will be provided with gear and given a brief tutorial on how to snorkel and if needed shown what a scallop looks like and some tips on locating them.
Once in the water, a successful hunt is all about training yourself to see the scallop pattern amongst the grassy and sandy bottom. Some focus on seeing the row of blue eyes and others on finding the shell pattern. You will also begin to see that scallops tend to congregate in similar areas amongst the grass.
After each snorkel session, you will bring your catch to the boat to be measured in aggregate. The legal limit of scallops is two gallons of whole scallops per person, and a max of ten gallons per boat. Once cleaned this can result in a significant amount of scallop meat. Once the group has located most of the scallops in an area, you may move to a fresh area to start the process again.
After you are satisfied with your catch for the day, you will have a relaxing boat ride back to the dock while rehydrating and enjoying the scenery. At the conclusion of your trip you have the option of paying to have your scallops cleaned or seeing a demonstration on how it is done so you can clean them yourself.
Scallop season books up far in advance, so if you are interested in experiencing why this is such a popular summertime activity you will want to check your calendars and reserve your trip with Captain Casy soon.