This will be no news flash, but the 2017 scallop season is underway.

This will be no news flash, but the 2017 scallop season is underway.


By the time Oct. 9 rolls around, scallop searchers in St. Joseph Bay will have had 30 days, total, the past two years.

And, to some, that might not have been such an awful thing.

Roughly two hours after last week’s edition of this newspaper hit the press, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that St. Joseph Bay would open last Saturday for the 2017 scallop season.

That date, Sept. 23, was, nearly to the day, two months after the FWC postponed the season due to the presence of a contaminating acid associated with a naturally-occurring algae bloom.

And the season opened in St. Joseph Bay on the same weekend that other harvest areas in Florida officially closed for the season.

“We had to get the sample back clean and safe,” said Amanda Nalley, spokeswoman for the FWC.

The season will close in St. Joseph Bay Oct. 9.

The 16-day season includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach canal to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge.

All typical regulations apply, with a daily bag limit of two gallons of whole scallops in the shell or one pint of scallop meat per person.

The maximum per vessel is 10 gallons of whole scallops in the shell or one-half gallon of meat.

You must have a saltwater fishing license to harvest scallops.

On social media, many hailed the opening of the season and the bay, particularly on the southern end, was home to a number of vessels, waders and kayakers in search of the tasty mollusk.

“Yes, yes, about time,” said Lawana McDonald. “Dreaming about blue eyes. A 16-day season is better than none at all.”

Another positive, strictly coincidental, was that this year’s Scallop and Music Festival, moved to a later date two years ago in hopes of cooler temperatures, will now fall within scallop season.

The Gulf County scallop season was postponed on the eve of its July 25 opening due to the presence of a naturally-occurring algae, which in some cases will produce domoic acid.

State testing showed the acid contamination in shellfish the weekend prior to July 25 was above federal limits for human consumption, closing the bay to harvesting of oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.

The FWC followed suit on July 24.

The season was scheduled to continue through Sept. 10.

Prior to the arrival of Hurricane Irma contamination levels in all four collection sites in St. Joseph Bay were found to be below federal limits.

Those tests, however, had to be backed by additional safe tests at least seven days after and testing this week confirmed the contamination remained below federal levels and scallops were safe for human consumption.

The FWC continues testing the bay twice a week.

The scallop population is still recovering from a red tide event in late 2015 that negatively impacted juvenile recruitment.

That led to a compressed two-week season in 2016 and the beginning of restoration efforts.

Surveys this past spring showed those restoration efforts were finding traction, with the counts three-times those in the spring of 2016, when the population was defined as “collapsed.”

Those restoration efforts, including caging scallops to facilitate more efficient spawning, which occurs within the water column, continue in the southeast area of the bay, south of Black’s Island.

Swimming, boating, fishing or scalloping in the marked restoration area is prohibited. FWC buoys are the boundaries to the restoration area.

The most recent algae bloom, known as Pseudo-nitzschia, is not expected to impact the population.

But there were some, echoing statements made during public workshops in 2016, that criticized the opening of the season, particularly with winter spawning around the corner.

“Let what’s out there spawn for next year,” wrote Arnie McMillion. “There’s very few there and they spawn in the fall of the year.”