Have you ever walked along the beach and found a shell that had ridges all along it? Have you seen scallops listed on the menu of your favorite seafood restaurant? The shell is commonly found on beaches all over the world. This type of shell, most likely was a home for a scallop at one time. The meat inside of that shell, is considered by many to be one of the healthiest things you can eat as well as one of the best tasting oceanic treats around.
The simple answer is that Scallops are mollusks. You can tell that you are looking at a scallop by looking at the shell it lives in, which is ridged or scalloped in shape. It will have a hinged side that is small, sometimes flattened out slightly, and then a bowl which may be somewhat large. To look at the shell that still has the scallop in it, you may at first think it will not open. On the beaches, most will only be a half shell, but you may also find a full top and bottom that are still connected.
If the shell is closed and you get it opened up, you will see a white muscle inside of it. This is the scallop, which is also called the “nut”. Inside of this you will also find its reproductive glands, which are known as the “coral”. Some countries do eat the coral as well, but this is not typical in North America.
There are a variety of types of scallops. It covers a variety of saltwater clams and marine bivalve mollusks. You will never find them in fresh water areas and the muscles inside of the shell are able to swim rapidly over a short distance as well as open and close their shell.
If you look closely at a scallop shell that still has the muscle inside of it, you will perhaps notice that they have simple eyes situated around their shells and at the tips of their mantles. This appears to be fine hairs that grow off the shell and it allows them to “see” where they are going if they are a migrating type of scallop.
If you are interested in scallop fishing or at least have the desire to give it a try, you may be wondering what types of scallops you will find. There are three types of scallops; the Sea Scallop, Bay Scallop, and Calico Scallops.
Sea scallops are typically found in the northeastern coastal areas and the mid-Atlantic areas. They are the largest scallops you will find whereas the Bay scallops are the smallest. Bay scallops are sweet, small, and more expensive to buy. In the past, they could be found all along the east coast from Maine to Florida. Sometimes you may also find them in the Gulf of Mexico. However, due to pollutants in the water, their numbers have dwindled, though which means they are more often found on scallop farms.
Scallop season in Florida, will prove enjoyable if you like the Calico scallops because it is the most common type found in the Gulf waters along Homosassa and Crystal River. They are not as small as the Bay scallops, but most of the time not as large as the Sea Scallops. Their meat is sweet, but not as sweet as the Bays.
Scalloping in Florida means that you can have a very enjoyable time exploring the land under the water. You can do it virtually anywhere along the coastal areas, as long as the scallops are in season and it is legal to harvest them. Most people do seem to favor the Crystal River and Homosassa River though, because of the potential to find both Bay and Calico scallops. It is also one of the more popular areas due to the charters that will take you out and show you how to scallop.
To go scalloping Homosassa, you will need to have a Florida Salt Water License that is up to date. A license can be acquired through the internet and it is available to both residents and non-residents. Every person who plans to go scalloping needs a license if they are between the ages of 16 and 65. There are regulations in place to protect the scallops from over picking, a guide is the best option if you want to ensure you are not catching more than you should have per person, as well as to teach you how to scallop if you have never done it before.
In 1994, scalloping in Florida was brought to a standstill because the area had been scalloped by so many. There was a limit put in place after a few years of the coastal waters being completely closed. It is because of this that scallops are now found in the area around Homosassa and Crystal Rivers. The shallow waters and the protection that is available for them, are all contributing to a steady increase of their population in the area.
Homosassa Springs scalloping is easy and fun to do. However, you will need a few things before you can begin scalloping. One of the most important things you will need is a dive flag which can be attached to your boat or on your float which must be attached to you. This is to let others in the area, especially boaters who may not be able to see you in the water, to know that they should take caution because you are in the water. Other gear needed to scallop is a mask, a snorkel, and sometimes fins. You will also want to carry a mesh bag to hold your catch.
To learn how to catch scallops you will need to find water that is between 4-8 feet deep. Ideally, it will be clear waters and you will see a sea grass bottom, either solid sea grass or in patchy areas. If possible, you will stand a better chance finding a sandy bottom area that is edged by the sea grasses. Be prepared, when the scallop sees you coming, they may attempt to swim away from you, but this is usually a short lived little bursts because they do not move far or very fast.
Most people simply anchor their boat and snorkel over scallop beds using their hands or a small net to catch them. When you have captured your limit or have more than you can carry, you will want to put them into either a live well or ice. If you use ice, you will need to keep the scallops separate from the water that the melting ice creates. Scallops are very sensitive to temperature and they will die quickly if they are not kept cool. Fresh water from melting ice will also cause them to die.
After a successful trip, you will also need to know how to clean scallops to ensure that they are good when you eat them. Cleaning scallops is not a hard process, but it can be tricky if you are new to the process.
The first thing you will need to do is get the scallop open. You do this by using a scallop knife to open it from the front. After it is opened, a process that is made easier by icing them, which causes the muscle to relax, you will need to take the knife and scrape the top part of the shell to release the scallop muscle. After that, you will need to run the blade along the top outer shell to release the membrane. It is basically a coat that is around the scallop. Throw the membrane away when it is separated from the scallop. Cut the muscle, which is attached to the bottom of the shell and you will be done cleaning your scallop.