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‘Productive’ scallop season ends midnight tonight

By Tim Croft
The Star

For those out there who may not have had an opportunity to enjoy the scallop harvest season in St. Joseph Bay this year the sands are leaving the hourglass. 

The 2020 scallop harvest season in the Bay will end at midnight tonight, closing out what by all accounts was another bountiful season. 

“All reports indicate it has been another very productive and successful season,” said Bobby Scarborough at Bluewater Outriggers. 

This year followed one of the most successful seasons on record, which was preceded by three years of compressed harvest windows due to red tide and another type of algae bloom. 

At several junctures during a three-year span the Bay was closed to all shellfish harvesting. 

But, then came last year and density numbers that broke records for the Bay. 

“I wouldn’t say it was as good as last year, but it was still pretty good,” said Highland View resident Doug Kelly, who has plied the Bay for decades. 

“I got my limit every time I went out. It depends on who you ask, but for me it was a good season.” 

And, as Kelly noted, the boat ramp at Frank Pate Park was bursting every weekend of the season, especially the opening Sunday which saw well over 200 boat trailers at the ramp. 

“There were a lot of people out there,” Kelly said. “A lot of scallops and a lot of people.” 

In 2019, the adult population survey of the bay revealed that the scallop density was a record for St. Joseph Bay. 

Only one harvest location in the state, and in just a single year, had recorded a higher density of over 60 per survey line. 

In 2016, the scallop population of St. Joseph Bay was deemed to have collapsed; after Hurricane Michael researchers could find only trace indications of a population. 

But, by the time the June survey came around the population had exploded.  

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) did not undertake surveys this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A typical weekend day at Frank Pate Park during scallop season attracted hundreds of boats and trailers

However, restoration efforts which began in 2016 continue, including the caging of scallops in a section of the Bay to enhance spawning. 

“Based on the reports at the Welcome Center it was a very good scallop season,” said Kelli Godwin, executive director of the Gulf County Tourist Development Council. 

The TDC is awaiting August bed tax numbers to determine the impact the season had on lodging partners, Godwin said. 

July was a record-breaker for the TDC, which despite the shutdown of beaches and short-term rentals earlier in the year is still pacing ahead of 2019 in terms of bed tax revenues.