The only thing I knew about scalloping in Florida prior to this experience was choosing between large (sea) vs small (bay) at Publix. But as we have discussed on this blog, we are exploring Florida this summer with our teenage children. So we set off to catch our own dinner in Florida’s Gulf at Crystal River. Scalloping, we learned from Captain Judy (more on her below) is as simple as jumping in and searching through the seagrass for a scallop. But it’s not as easy as it looks (more to come on that).

You do not actually scallop in the river, we went out to the Bay. The trip took about 40 minutes and along the way you see sights like Shell Island. Shell Island is man-made. It started with Native Americans discarded shells, then was added to when the local government dredged the channel.

You also get a nice view of Progress Energy’s nuclear power plant (maybe that is why the scallops tasted so good). There is a lot of beautiful landscape along the trip, so keep your eyes out. Scallop season in Florida runs from June through September 24th. So we came near the end of the season.

How to Book A Scalloping Trip in Florida

On to the fun. We booked with Captain Judy. She is an experienced scalloper and supplies all of the equipment needed to scallop. You will go on her 22-foot pontoon boat which is completely shaded (a necessity in the summer in Florida). The only thing you really need to bring is water, snacks and a cooler to bring the scallops home. Captain Judy supplies the masks, snorkels, fins, and bags to collect all those scallops.

How to Catch Scallops

You will find scallops in about 6 feet of water and they like to hide in the tall water grass. When you dive in, you have to look closely and when you find one, dive down and simply grab it. Sounds easy, for some, I’m sure it is. My 3 kids and I dove, while my wife kept the boat safe and collected all the great pictures.

The kids caught on quickly and caught some scallops. I didn’t have as much luck. So a quick note for all of those like me who are a bit older, a bit chubbier, and a bit more out of shape then they would like to admit…… It’s DAM hard to float around and look for scallops, then dive down and keep coming up with either grass or coral. OH, and it is the bay so there is a current. Dive down, come up and the boat looks about a mile away.

One trick is to bring a pool noodle. It makes it a lot easier to float around. Another tip, before releasing the noodle and diving for scallops, push the noodle in front of you. I learned the hard way that the current takes the noodle pretty far after a few seconds. Swimming after the noodle floating away in the current pretty much zapped the life out of me. Don’t look for help from your family, mine was too busy dying laughing on the boat as I tried to retrieve my noodle. The caught scallops go into a bucket and are alive. We took this amazing video of them trying to get out of the bucket.

The great scallop escape

Final tip, be nice to Captain Judy. She got into the water with our family, helped the kids find some scallops, and even dove for some herself (and gave them to our family). We ended up with about 50 scallops, enough for the amazing meal below.

How to Cook Scallops

Preparing the scallops are pretty easy, a bit gooey, but easy. First, we utilized a butter knife and was able to get it into the shell near the joint. Simply twist your hand and the shell will pop open. Then scrape the scallop off the top of the shell and throw the shell away. We kept a few of the shells and put it into our Florida shell collection. You now have a 1/2 a shell and a bunch of goop. Simply scrape away the goop, being careful not to disconnect the scallop. Rinse, and you have an edible scallop.

We cooked ours two ways. We kept some in the shell and prepared a baked scallop appetizer. A simple breading (cooked some butter, garlic, and lemon juice, cooled and added Italian bread crumbs). Added the breading and some parmesan cheese and cooked in the oven for 20 minutes. The other recipe was a simple scampi sauce with spaghetti (we added shrimp to kick up the dinner). YUMMY.

Successful Scalloping Outing

It was an amazing day. A day we were able to connect with our kids without all of the electronics, texts, and everyday interference. These tours are small, we were the only ones on the boat. In these current times with COVID-19, it is great to find a local activity you can safely do with your family. If you are ever interested in scalloping in Florida, you should definitely book with Captain Judy. She is affiliated with Captain Frank and her info can be found here: https://captfrank.net. Definitely ask for Captain Judy.

One Reply to “Unique Family Adventure: Scalloping in Florida!”

  1. I had an awesome time Scalloping with Howard & Michele and the 3 teens!

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