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Scalloping Season in Tampa Bay: It’s a Must Do Family Adventure

Your cure for the summer boredom blues is here so let’s get ready to plan ahead!

Related: A Very Florida STATEcation: Fun “Only in Florida” road trips to experience with the kids this summer

The 2021 scalloping season in Tampa Bay is nearly here, starting in Citrus, Hernando and Levy counties beginning July 1-September 24, 2021. Pasco County’s two week season opens July 16-25, 2021.

Florida 2021 Bay Scallop Seasons:

Learn more here.

Levy, Citrus, Hernando Counties: July 1-Sept 24, 2021
Pasco County: July 16-25, 2021
Gulf County: Aug 16-Sept 24, 2021
Franklin to NW Taylor County: July 1-Sept 24, 2021
St Joseph Bay and Gulf County: Aug 16-Sept 24, 2021

If you’ve never been scalloping before, you probably have questions. We did too, so let’s get to it!

Scallops in Crystal River

Photo Courtesy of Carol Grant, Oceangrant Images and Discover Crystal River Florida

First, what exactly are scallops and what kind of scallops will I find in Tampa Bay?

Scallops are bivalve molluscs like clams, mussels, and oysters. But, unlike clams and oysters, scallops can swim!

In the Tampa Bay Area, you’ll find…surprise, surprise, bay scallops! They’re smaller than the sea scallops you may be accustomed to ordering at your favorite restaurant, but they are just as tasty. Bay scallops are also more tender on the bite than sea scallops.

Where can I go scalloping in Tampa Bay?

Scalloping season in Florida opens in the summertime from Pasco County, north through the Florida panhandle!

There are so many spots to go scalloping! Some of our local favorites are Crystal River, Homosassa, and Pasco County. In fact, you can even make a prolonged stay out of it by booking a stay and tour with Plantation on Crystal River.

Pro Tip: Weekdays are best if you want to avoid the crowds. Later in the season also tends to produce larger scallops.

One added bonus, you can even book a tour to swim with the manatees – Crystal River is one of the few spots where you can legally book a tour to swim with the beautiful and gentle animals.

Scalloping with kids in Homosassa

Scalloping in Homosassa. Photo Courtesy of Romona Robbins, Romona Robbins Photography

Is this a kid-friendly activity?

Absolutely! Babies and toddlers may not be able to enjoy the full experience, but elementary aged kids and older will love it!

Do I need a permit or license to go scalloping?

If you decide to go out on your own boat, then yes, you will need a salt water fishing license. Register here. But, if you go on a guided tour like one booked with Plantation on Crystal River, they take care of that for you. Tours and charters are definitely the hassle-free way to go!

You can also go through this list from Visit Florida to find out more about other guided tours.

What do I need to bring with me?

A can do attitude, snorkel, mask, fins, mesh bag, and dive flag so other boaters know you are in the water. Safety first! If you book a tour, your boat captain will likely take care of these items for you and will have most likely packed some water, but you can bring your own water and snacks too.

Yet another reason a guided tour is so much better! Plus, they know all the secret spots on where to find the most scallops!

Scalloping at Plantation in Crystal River

Photo courtesy of Plantation on Crystal River.

How do I catch a scallop?

You’ll typically find the bay scallops among the sea grass in about 3-6 feet of water. Be on the look out for the row of blue, beady looking eyes around the rim.

Scalloping is often compared to an underwater egg hunt, only more challenging because scallops can swim! That’s right! You’ll want to go in for the catch quickly when you spot the scallop. They are able to make swift movements by opening and closing their shells. Careful, because the quick open and close movements can snap at fingers. It won’t take off fingers, don’t worry, but you’ll definitely might feel the pinch.

You can catch scallops by hand or use a small dip net.

Photo Courtesy of Romona Robbins, Romona Robbins Photography

Is there a limit on how many I bay scallops I can collect?

You betcha and this is to help protect the species and future scalloping seasons.

The current daily bag limit in the Tampa Bay Area which includes Pasco and Citrus counties is 2 gallons of whole bay scallops per person. One boat cannot have more than 10 gallons of whole bay scallops.

Once I’ve caught the scallops, then what?

Clean, shuck and cook them! If you’d rather leave that up to the pros, there are places that will do it all for you.

At Plantation on Crystal River, there is a family onshore at the marina who will clean and shuck your scallops for a fee. You can then take your bag of scallops to the the restaurant West 82° Bar & Grill where the chef will cook them for you! The meal is $14.95 and comes with your choice of sauce and two sides. FYI: The lemon butter sauce is absolutely delicious. We are still dreaming about it! 

scalloping in Homosassa

Photo Courtesy of Romona Robbins, Romona Robbins Photography

If I want to make this more than a daycation, where should my family stay?

We like Plantation on Crystal River because there are so many other things you can do when you’re not out on a scalloping adventure. As we mentioned above, they offer guided tours to legally swim with the manatees. There are also opportunities to go out gulf fishing, go for a sunset cruise, swing some rounds of golf, book a spa package, go kayaking or stand up paddle boarding and more! Learn more about Plantation on Crystal River here! They are offering special rates for Florida residents.

*While Plantation on Crystal River is a paid advertiser in our print magazine, this article is NOT sponsored. We’re just sharing some cool details about a fun family-friendly activity in Tampa Bay!

You can learn more about scalloping season by visiting:

Discover Crystal River Florida

Visit Pasco County: Florida’s Sports Coast

More Outdoor Adventures Your Family May Enjoy:

8 Outdoor Must-Do Outdoor Adventures in Tampa Bay by the Outdoorsy Diva

Our Favorite Family-Friendly Beaches in Tampa Bay

7+ Splash Pads and Water Parks in Tampa Bay to Keep Your Cool 

Drivecations that will have you wanting to staycation all summer long in Florida

Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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