July 1 means it’s time to dive in to the Gulf of Mexico for Florida bay scallops, a classic summertime thrill that lasts through September 24. Here on Florida’s Adventure Coast, our pro guides know great scalloping spots and welcome you aboard for a carefree day on the water. Contact them directly to book a scalloping charter and enjoy a sensational full-service experience.
Going out on your own? Grab snorkels and masks, saltwater fishing licenses and a diver down flag. Bring a container with ice and plenty of sunblock. Be sure to prepare a safety protocol that includes a float plan left with someone back on shore.
Here is more advice for safety and scalloping success from those who do it every day.
Always fly the divers down flag and do so from the highest point of your boat. Not using the flag when divers are in the water is against the law and puts swimmers at risk. Take the flag down when no one is in the water or when moving to a new location.
Look for scallops in 4 – 5 feet of water on the grass bottom. In calm seas, idle the boat slowly and look over the side to see the scallops.
I suggest staying away from boat groups for safety and because the area gets picked-over quickly. The area that produces great every year is from Bayport north to Chassahowitzka, just outside the head marker from the channels.
Put your scallops on ice immediately. This will keep them fresh and relax the muscle, making them easier to open and clean.
It’s a good idea to bring a tube of plain white toothpaste; a little bit helps to defog your swim mask.
Watch the tide. Aim for slack low tide for best scalloping. If there is a current, swim against it going out and drift back.
Drink plenty of water. If you feel a headache coming on, it’s usually due to dehydration.
Always keep one person on the boat as a watcher in case anyone needs help. Be sure they know basic boat operation.
Bring extra snorkel gear because something always breaks.
Bring plenty of water to drink (not beer).
Next most important: have fun!
Reapply sunscreen frequently, especially on your back and neck area. Snorkeling and swimming while looking down means your back is exposed to a lot of sun.
A trick we've picked up for keeping your goggles from fogging up is to soak them overnight in a solution of water and a few drops of baby shampoo.
Because the edges of scallop shells can be quite sharp, it's a good idea to wear protective gloves when handling them.
Always check your distance from the boat and don't let yourself get too far away while you're busy diving up and down.
Stay close to your boat. Do frequent head counts of your group.
Slip into the water feet-first; don’t dive in.
Keep an eye out for jellyfish before entering the water.
Keep your distance from other boats, at least 300 feet in open water if diver down flags are visible.
Book early for your preferred dates. Scallop charters fill up quickly.
Make sure dive flag is up when swimmers are in the water and be observant
of other swimmers while operating your boat.
I suggest wearing polarized sunglasses and a hat to aid visibility.
Don’t forget your camera.
Be sure to go during a slack tide; you’re more likely to tire when there is a current.
Those little nets with the handle are great to use in a little deeper water because it gives you a longer reach.
Double check your anchor system and be sure to have a back-up; a Plan B.
When in the water, pop your head up and locate your boat once every minute; many boats look identical from below.
Put your catch in a mesh bag and never in your swimsuit pocket!
“Scalloping is very social. It can be a great family affair. Once you do it, I promise, you’ll be back to do it again.” Captain Jamie Smith