Scalloping in Franklin County starts July 1, while Gulf County waits until Aug. 17.
Port St. Joe — A pilot FWC program to stagger the scallop season in response to public comments has kicked off scalloping in some parts of the state, while Northwest Florida waits for its scallops to get a little bigger.
In Franklin County, the hunt doesn’t start until July 1 and lasts through Sept. 24. The region stretches from westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.
In Gulf County, the wait will be a little longer, with the season starting Aug. 17 and lasting through Sept. 30. The region includes from the Mexico Beach Canal to St. Vincent Island.
“Harvesting bay scallops is a fun outdoor activity for the whole family,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Chairman Bo Rivard in a prepared statement. “The conservation of this species is important for recreation and the economics of these coastal areas.”
The season in Dixie and a portion of Taylor counties is already open, and runs through Sept. 10. In Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties the season will run from July 1 through Sept. 24. And Pasco County a trial 10-day open season will occur from July 20-29, the region’s first season since 1994.
The staggered dates are part of an effort by FWC to adjust the season structure in response to feedback from the public and several years of challenging seasons.
Last year, the Gulf County season, for example, was significantly delayed and shortened because on algae bloom, and in 2016 the scallop population was so small after a devastating Red Tide in 2015 FWC officials considered cancelling it altogether.
“These season dates are for 2018 only,” the press release said. “In late 2018 or early 2019, the FWC will set the 2019 seasons for Gulf and Pasco counties, consider continuing the 2018 season structure for the remaining portions of the open scallop harvest area in 2019, and will work toward creating a more permanent season structure for 2020 and beyond.”
An unexpected to perk of the delay in 2017 was Gulf County harvesters reported the scallops were larger and overall seemed happy with the season, despite the shortened length. FWC incorporated that feedback when the went to set the 2018 calendar, according to FWC press releases.
The agency is looking for feedback on how the season should be structured in the future.
“The FWC is very interested in understanding whether the public prefers regional differences in the season dates or if a consistent season across the harvest area is of greater value, as well as what season dates work best for various regions,” a statement said. “Public feedback will be important for determining whether further changes are needed when making a decision about the long-term season dates.”
To give feedback, go to myfwc.com/saltwatercomments or email Marine@MyFWC.com.