Scallop season returns to Pasco County

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There are big changes coming to the Pasco County Gulf waters.

For the first time in decades, there will be a scallop harvest. Governor Rick Scott announced details Monday as local scallop lovers are getting their gear ready.

Governor Scott said, “I’m proud to announce that for the first time in more than 20 years, families in Pasco County will be able to enjoy a scallop season. Scalloping is one of the best ways to experience the Sunshine State’s incredible natural areas and I encourage residents and visitors to take advantage of this exciting opportunity.”

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Chairman Bo Rivard said, “Scalloping with your friends and family is classic Florida fun in the sun. The season brings people and an economic boost to these coastal areas, all the while encouraging conservation and connecting residents and visitors to the wonders of Florida’s outdoors.”

At Sam's Beach Bar in Hudson, you can get your scallops blackened, bronzed and fried.

"If they are cooked right, you can cut them with a fork. They're very tender," Scott Robbins, who runs the kitchen at Sam's Beach Bar
And, in a few days, you can also get your scallops out there in the water. For the first time since 1994, there will be scallop season in Pasco County. The season runs from July 20-29. The region includes all state waters south of the Hernando–Pasco county line and north of the Anclote Key Lighthouse in northern Pinellas County, and includes all waters of the Anclote River.

"Instead of having to go all the way up to Steinhatchee? We're really excited about it being open here this coming week," said Pam Angle of Hudson. "My son and his family are coming over and our friends, they're all going to be over."

Scalloping was banned in Pasco in 1994, part of a state effort to regulate and protect the scallop population from over-harvesting. After conditions improved in 2002, recreational harvesting was brought back to Citrus and Hernando Counties. Now, Pasco gets a trial run.

"We've kind of been looking around at the Anclote River," Angle said of her strategy. "Somebody reported they'd seen them out by the stilt houses."

Recreational harvesters need a Florida Saltwater Fishing license. There’s a limit of 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a max of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 a gallon of bay scallop meat per vessel

Angle can't wait to go searching underwater. "It's like a giant Easter egg hunt for adults," Angle laughed. "It is. You become addicted to it once you're down in the water and you find your first scallop."

Late this year or in early 2019, FWC will meet to consider the terms of a 2019 scallop season, working toward a more permanent, long-term plan in 2020.