Singing the scalloping song
There’s no question about it, it’s been a good scalloping
season so far, and Chris Kelly is singing about it.
“My secret is I sing to them, in my snorkel. ‘Where you
hiding at?’” said Kelly, described by her colleagues at Bluewater Outriggers as
a ‘scalloping fool.”
“I wake them up in the morning, and the little fishes help
me find them,” she said. “Most men have a fish finder with fish plots on it. I
have a fish finder with scalloping plots on it.”
Kelly was out with her spouse on August 18, just after the
weather cleared from the first day of the season. She got her limit then, and
they have been getting their two pints of shucked meat every day she’s been out since, usually
in less than two hours.
After five days of scalloping, she went back last weekend
and again got her limit. “Now I go back to work and only go on weekends,” she said.
She said that this season’s crop seems robust enough.
“They’re about the size we expect them to be this time of year,
and we hope after the next full moon (Sept. 6) they get a little bigger,” Kelly
From now until the season ends Sept. 24, she and her husband
will be out, but it may take a little looking.
“At the beginning you could fall out the boat and find them,”
she said. “Now you have to know where you’re going, and you know where to look.”
Once Kelly gathers a few, she’ll sample them in the water to
make sure they’re sweet. “You shuck them out and eat them, and if they’re sweet
you know you have a good batch, she said. “My husband shucks them and we bring
home two pints cleaned and ready to go,”
They’ll sauté them and throw them in with angel hair pasta,
or fry them up, or chop them up into a baked patty, or if they’re big enough,
put them on a half-shell with cheese and garlic butter and microwave them.
“If we’re going to freeze them, we put them in a pint bag,
and put in a little water and burp the bag and freeze it,” Kelly said. “We
don’t ever keep them over a year.”
She said she makes sure to share with others in the
neighborhood as well. “There’s a lot of elderly in our neighborhood who can’t
scallop anymore so always make sure they have scallops,” Kelly said.
The couple will be out at the crack of dawn, to beat the
heat and the boat traffic. “I like to wake them up,” Kelly said. “When they’re
feeding, they’ll sit on their side, and their eyes glow, or you find them
buried with shells on their back, or you find them sometimes sitting on clumps
Armed with scalloping kits, gloves, bags, water shoes for the
bay and fins for deeper waters, all gear she can get where she works, Kelly is ready to go
after the bigger ones, as she and her husband venture out further from shore.
“Where you go deeper, they get bigger,” she said. “The
bigger will almost be as big as tater tots and easier to grill.
“We have a deal. I collect them up and anymore I can find
them so fast he stays in the boat and shucks them,” Kelly said.
Crystal Dawn Follin, from the Welcome Center in Port St.
Joe, next to the boat launch, said it’s been pretty busy next door at Frank
Pate Park Boat Ramp.
There’s a fee to launch there, but the other sites in the county
are free, whether it is from White City or Highland View or wherever.
“The state park also is a good place, there’s lots of
scallops there,” she said, adding that there’s a cap of no more than 25 boats
at any given time, and no more than 40 cars for regular day visitors.
Follin said there’s plenty of charter captains that offer
trips, “They know their bay,” she said.
One thing she did stress is that snorkelers must put out “diver
down” flags to signal passing watercraft.
“People need to be mindful, don’t trample the heck out of the
seagrass beds,” Follin said. “Nothing thrives without them, they’re essential.
“There’s plenty out there so it’s good not to be greedy and
take those small ones,” she said.
Also, make sure you have a saltwater fishing license.
Daily bag limits are two gallons of whole bay scallops in
shell, or one pint of bay scallop meat. Per vessel there is a maximum of 10
gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or a half-gallon (four pints) of bay
Check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission online at
myfwc.com for more information.