What is a Scallop?
The text book definition says that a scallop is a
member of the shellfish family known as bivalves,
named for its two valves, or shells. Its upper valve
is a dark mottled color, occasionally bright yellow
or orange, and its lower valve is typically white.
Bay scallops may reach a shell height of two inches
and live two years; although, in Florida their life
span is generally only one year. Take a peak at the
Shell gas logo, and you’ll have a mental picture
of what the animal looks like.
The bay scallop feeds
continuously by "vacuuming" or
filtering small particles of algae and organic matter
from the water. It does this by funneling water over
open pathways called gills. One of these pathways takes
in water and skims off particles, while another expels
the filtered water along with digestive wastes.
Scallops open their
valves when feeding or breathing and close them when
predators approach. The shell can
also be slammed shut to avoid silt, which can clog
the animal's delicate gills. Many tiny, blue eyes
arrayed along the outer rim of the shell detect movement
the animal and serve as a warning system. When threatened,
the scallop can swim backwards by clapping its valves
and expelling water rapidly.
You might wonder why
I’m so interested in the
scallop. One day, I was invited to join Sunshine River
Tours’ Scallop Tour. The day of the tour, we
all met at Captain Mike’s Welcome Center.
It was there that I gathered the gear that I needed
an authentic scallop trip. I learned that we needed
a recreational saltwater fishing license, which
is required and provided with your trip. In the
vital piece of equipment that was necessary was
just an ordinary mess bag. I would use this bag
my scallops. Once we had our bags in hand, we headed
to the boat where Captain Stu met and escorted
us on our adventure.
It took about thirty
minutes to boat away from the pristine riverbanks
of the Homosassa River
Gulf of Mexico. Homosassa River is famous for
where manatees make home during the winter months.
Captain Mike’s most popular tour is the
Manatee Tour. Nevertheless, this day the little
On board, Captain Stu explained his simple rules
for scalloping. First, he asserted that each
not gather more than 2 gallons of whole scallops.
He continued by explaining that ten gallons per
with five or more passengers, was the limit.
He went on to explain that if we clean the scallops
returning to the dock, the limit is 1 pint of
scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 2
gallon per boat.
Captain Stu reassured
us that scallop hunting is easy. Nevertheless, at
this point, I was not
because I compared it to an activity that I
am familiar with – lobster hunting, which is not easy. Onward
we floated to the first stop. We all hurried to put
on our snorkel gear and jump into the 6-foot deep crystal
clear water. At this point, I was still not sure what
I was looking for. I knew what scallops looked like
but was unsure about where to find them along the sandy
bottom. I looked under rocks and stones and could not
find any. After a while, I learned that not one person
in the group found scallops at that stop. We all returned
to the boat and went to another location. Captain Stu
continued to reassure us that we would have success.
He was right. This attempt was different. We hit the
mother load minutes after jumping into the water. There
they were…aqua blue nuggets, with their
little blue eyes staring at you. You would
not believe the
striking blue eyes these creatures have. They
seem to glow in the water.
The scallops lay there
in the wide open, mostly in the grassy areas. All
you have to do is
or bend down and pick them up. The scallops
close their shells as you get near them,
the tiny blue
within the shell, and then you scoop your
hands underneath them and put them in your net bag.
We scooped and moved,
and scooped and moved, until the group was tired.
Back on board
the boat, we
put our catch inside the iced cooler and
booty home. At the end of the day, Captain
Stu showed us
how to clean these little guys. We learned
quickly that preparation is the key to
this task. Cleaning
the scallops takes a lot of work. As a
beginner, it took me about 1-2 hours but it was well
worth the ultimate
reward - a delicious meal.
The boat was a cool
mix of people that day, from a family with two children,
elderly couple. This was definitely a
magnificent day for everyone. We spent it amidst
air, shiny waters,
and bright sunshine, and, at the same
time, were spoiled by the conveniences of the
shade it provided.
The cost of Sunshine
River Tours Scallop Tour is $50 per person and includes
mask, fins, and snorkel. This tour
is only available during scallop season,
Florida’s gulf coast.
Scallop season begins July 1 and runs
through September 10. State waters
in the Gulf of Mexico open to scallop
harvest extend from the Pasco-Hernando
Reservations with Sunshine River Tours
are a must, call 1-352-302-9207.
For more information contact:
Sunshine River Tours
Michael Millsap, Owner
with a bag full of scallops and a hearty
appetite, give this recipe a try:
- 2 Onions, sliced
- 4 tb Butter
- 2 c Scallops
- 2 c Boiling water
- 1 c Diced potatoes
- 4 c Scalded milk
- Salt and pepper
Directions: Sauté onions in
butter. Remove onions from pan. Cut up scallops
and sauté in butter. Add onions, scallops and
potatoes to boiling water. Simmer 30 minutes.
Add scalded milk and simmer 15 minutes. Add
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