Summer is the time when the Florida Scalloping Season officially kicks off yielding the ultimate fresh payoff for a tasty seafood feast. Note: Florida scallop season has already started in some parts of the state including an early opening June 16 in Dixie County. Citrus and Hernando Counties will open July 1 while Gulf County on the Florida Panhandle opens July 25.
It’s early morning as we meet our boat captain at Citrus County’s Old Homosassa public dock. With a smile and a hearty “Good Morning,” he instructs our family to step carefully onto the boat, helping us on board with our dive gear in tow. We introduce ourselves to another smiling family who will be joining the day’s adventures. As we leave the dock, it’s obvious that we are far from alone. From July 1 to September 24, Florida’s 2017 scallop season is in full swing and boats are launching for the journey to the Gulf of Mexico. There is excitement in the air. We are on our way to one of Florida’s most fertile scalloping grounds.
Out on the Gulf, north of Tampa Bay, there are miles and miles of shallow grass flats. This is where we will be diving for live scallops (picture the Shell Oil scallop) that can fit perfectly into the palm of your hand, are grayish or orange in color and are one of Florida’s tastiest seafood delicacies.
For many, this is an annual tradition for families and friends as they gather for a day of fun on the water. And, oh, yeah, did I mention that today’s catch will be tonight’s dinner?
We slowly motor along the Homosassa River, passing homes that are unmistakably “old Florida.” We pass Shelly’s Fish Market, an old-timey fish shack that sells freshly caught seafood “off the dock.” Next to Shelly’s is a fleet of weather-beaten fishing vessels. And in the distance are rows of stacked stone crab traps. We pass brightly colored “fish camp” homes with screened porches, painted buoys and fishnets draped over fences. There is no question that this community is all about being “on” or “in” the water.