Survey says – a slightly better scallop season ahead.
Bay scallop season begins Saturday and researchers studying St. Joseph Bay indicate that after a lean year in 2012, the scallop population is on the rebound.
The recreational season opens June 29, after Gov. Rick Scott requested an early open to the season this week, for state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.
The season will continue through Sept. 24.
Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.
Scallops can not be taken ashore outside of the open area for harvesting.
There is no commercial harvest for bay scallops in Florida state and federal waters.
The average number of scallops observed in St. Joseph Bay doubled this year as researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg conducted their surveys.
Each year, researchers place 20 transect lines of 300 meters in length at 12 stations around the bay.
The configuration works like this: the first station is just off the boat ramp at Frank Pate Park and researchers work in a horseshoe around the south end of the bay and up to T. H. Stone St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
In all, roughly 12,000 square meters of the bay are surveyed, a diver dipping underwater at one end of each transect and counting scallops along the length of the line.
Last year, after banner years in 2010 and 2011, the average number of scallops per transect line in St. Joseph Bay was 10.9.
This year, researchers found 23 scallops per transect line, indicating a successful year for juvenile growth, said a spokesperson with the Research Institute.
“They are a little bit up from last year,” said Kevin Baxter from the Research Institute. “Looking at past years, the numbers didn’t rebound to that level but they are higher.”
In 2010 the average per transect was 138; in 2011 it was 154.
The average number of scallops also doubled in Homosassa and increased slightly in Steinhatchee.
The average at St. Marks decreased substantially, most likely due to the effects of Tropical Storm Debby, according to the FWC.
Once again this year, the FWC is asking for the public’s help in assessing the bay scallop population as well as how long it took folks to find and harvest scallops.
The FWC is asking those seeking scallops to fill out an online survey at http://svy.mk/bayscallops.
For questions or seek additional information about scallop season email BayScallops@MyFWC.com.
Learn more by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Saltwater”, “Recreational”, and “Bay Scallops.”
* There is a daily limit of two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one pint of bay scallop meat per person.
* In addition, no more than 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one-half gallon of bay scallop meat may be possessed aboard any vessel at any time. Folks are allowed to harvest bay scallops only by hand or with a landing or dip net.
* Bay scallops may not be harvested for commercial purposes.
* Bag limits are daily limits; it is illegal to take a limit of scallops in the morning and return later in the day and collect another limit of scallops.
* Unless otherwise exempt, a regular Florida saltwater fishing license is required when using a boat to harvest scallops. If folks wade from shore, a regular Florida saltwater fishing license or a free resident shore-based license is needed.
* Divers and snorkelers are required to display a “divers-down” flag (red with a white diagonal stripe) while in the water. Boaters must stay at least 100 feet away from a divers-down flag in a river, inlet or channel. In open waters, boaters must stay 300 feet away from a divers-down flag.
* More information on bay scallops, including management rules, dive-flag regulations and boating safety is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Regulations” under “Saltwater Fishing”). Information about scallop research is available at MyFWC/Research/Saltwater under the “Mollusc” section.