Bay scallop season will open three days early this year.
Gov. Rick Scott requested the early start to create additional recreational opportunities for Florida residents and visitors while providing more economic benefits to coastal communities where scalloping occurs.
The season usually opens July 1. The early start will push that date up to June 28.
“I requested the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission open the season early this year to benefit our communities who rely on our fisheries,” Scott said in a releases. “The bay scallop fishery is especially important to Florida’s Big Bend region and by opening the bay scallop season three days earlier, Floridians throughout this area will have more opportunities to enjoy our natural treasures and provide for their families.”
FWC commissioners will likely decide dureing a future meeting to permantently change future season openings to the Saturday before July 1, unless July 1 is a Saturday.
The recreational season will open in Gulf of Mexico state waters (shore to nine nautical miles) from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. The season runs through Sept. 24.
It is illegal to possess bay scallops on waters outside open harvest areas. It is also illegal to land scallops outside open harvest areas, according to the FWC.
For example, it would be legal to take scallops from waters off the Hernando County coast, but it would be illegal to dock your boat in Pasco County with the scallop catch onboard.
The law permits bay scallops to be harvested by hand, landing or dip net, according to the FWC.
A recreational saltwater fishing license is required to take or attempt to take saltwater fish, crabs, clams, lobster, marine plants or other saltwater organisms, with the exception of non-living seashells and lionfish with certain gear. The cost is $17 for a 12-month saltwater fishing license.
In or after 1995, the FWC (then the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission) modified bay scallop harvesting laws to eliminate all commercial fishing of bay scallops in state waters, reduced the length of recreational fishing season from nine months to two months and 10 days, and reduced the bag limit from five gallons to two gallons, according to a University of South Florida report.