While most people only know scallops as a delicious dish at their favorite seafood restaurant, for born and bred Floridians, the word calls up something more.
Scallopin' is a closely held tradition for many locals, especially those whose families have been here more than a few generations.
Every summer, recreational scallop season opens and scores of families and seafood loving tourists head out into the Gulf of Mexico to scoop the little suckers up.
This year's official starting date of Monday, July 1 has been moved up to Saturday, June 29 by decree of our governor.
The main reason behind the move -- most people gotta work on Mondays.
Gov. Rick Scott explained this week's decision in a press release:
"I asked [Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission] to open the recreational scallop season early. This is an opportunity for Florida families and our visitors to enjoy our state's natural beauty, while catching the best scallops in the world. By moving the recreational date up, we'll provide families and visitors with an extra weekend to enjoy the scallop season, which will benefit jobs and families along the coast."
Starting Saturday, the season will be open in the Gulf of Mexico Florida state waters (from shore to 9 nautical miles out) from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. The season through through September 24. As of September 25, no more scallopin'.
"Harvesting bay scallops is a family friendly activity that boosts the local economy in areas where harvest is open," said FWC Chairman, Ken Wright. "Opening the bay scallop season two days early, on a weekend rather than a weekday, and on the weekend before the Fourth of July will positively impact the communities and businesses that depend on bay scalloping while providing additional recreational opportunities for Florida's residents and visitors."
It's open season on scallops, but there are still rules in place. The bag limit is two gallons of whole bay scallops (or one pint of meat) per person, per day. The limit per vessel is 10 gallons of whole bay scallops (or a half-gallon of meat).
Scallops cannot be taken ashore outside of the designated harvesting areas and they cannot be collected for commercial purposes.
Here's the official decree in all its bureaucratic glory:
So, act like a true Floridian. Gather up some kin, hitch up a boat that doesn't leak (too much), aim the car northwest, and drive 'til you hit ocean. It's scallopin' time. Visit MyFWC.com for more information.