Banner scallop season expected


Florida's recreational scallop season opens Tuesday and the forecast this year is for a terrific harvest.

KAREN VOYLES/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 6:54 a.m.

Bay scallop season opens Tuesday along Florida’s Gulf Coast and the forecast this year is for a terrific harvest.

“Steinhatchee was loaded,” said Sarah Stephenson, one of the research biologists at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute operated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in St. Petersburg.

Stephenson and others conducted a scallop census and few weeks ago and

determined the shellfish populations between Crystal River and Steinhatchee are healthy and in much larger number than they were during the 2007 season.

“We were finding an average of 140 scallops per station – a 600 square meter plot – where last year we had an average of 37 per station,” Stephenson said. The census in the Crystal River area nearly doubled.

Stephenson said researchers found 86 scallops per station, up significantly from the 48 found a year ago.

“They are spread out, kind of patchy and spread out, but otherwise a very healthy population,” Stephenson said.

Researchers are not sure why the scallop populations are larger this year, but they suspect two factors came into play.

“For one thing, they did not get as much rainfall, so the salinity in the Gulf did not drop as much,” Stephenson said. “But bay scallops are very cyclical and it may be that we are on the upper part of their cycle.”

Researchers are asking recreational scallopers to help the populations to remain healthy by scalloping in deeper water for the larger shellfish and leaving the smaller, near shore specimens in place for the upcoming spawning season.

Florida has no new laws or rules covering recreational harvesting this year. However, wildlife officers are reminding scallopers that the season runs through Sept. 10 and that it is only legal to have scallops in your possession if you are within the harvest areas. The harvestable waters extend from the Pasco-Hernando County line to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.

Bag limits on scallops remain unchanged. Recreational harvesters may have two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one pint of scallop meat per day during the season. The per boat limit is 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or a half gallon of bay scallop meat aboard any boat at any time.

Karen Voyles can be reached at kvoyles@gmail.com or 359-5656

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