by Troy Gilbert
July brings with it a unique tradition for recreational boat owners on Florida’s Big Bend on the Gulf Coast—bay scallop season. A run of sandy barrier islands and a marshy estuarine system contribute to an ideal salinity and ecosystem for the tasty mollusks, an environment unique to the Gulf Coast. Highly susceptible to even minute environmental changes, the harvesting of bay scallops is strictly controlled and no commercial activities are allowed. The one exception is for recreational boat owners and individuals who wade from shore with dip nets, a pastime that has led to an almost cultural institution on this stretch of Florida’s coastline.
Midsummer brings out the snorkels, flippers and mesh bags as Floridians and tourists peruse the sandy seagrass beds just offshore of Florida’s Forgotten Coast between Port St. Joe and Tarpon Springs. “Diver down” flags pop up above tried and true secret scalloping spots, and with scallops preferring depths of only 4-6 feet of water, it is a family-friendly experience. Port St. Joe also holds an annual Scallop Festival every August in this very authentic old-style Florida town.