Scalloping off the Nature Coast
by Melinda Barry
A few years ago some friends of mine asked if they could use our nature coast home as a jumping off point for their scalloping adventure. The good hostess that I am I said "Sure! It would be great to spend a day out on the water." At the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into because I had never had the experience of scalloping and really didn't know what to expect.
So early on the day of our departure, we loaded up the boat, and set off for the boat ramp on the Homosassa River. Once we launched the boat it took us approximately twenty minutes to get out to where we would first try our hands at the art of scalloping. Being the natural chicken that I am, I proudly stated that I had no problem staying top side to shuck the little suckers. My friends could all have fun snorkeling for the coveted shells. From experience, I figured that shucking scallops couldn't be much different than shucking oysters. I would be a pro at separating out the little yummy hunks of muscle, and the not so yummy gelatinous goop, from the curvaceous scallop shells. Wow, was I wrong. It really takes knack and know-how. However, once you get the hang of it, it is very satisfying to see the bucket fill with miniature morsels of sweet scallop meat. Also, a tired snorkeler frequently came topside to rest and to help me with my shucking duty. The scallops came aboard faster than we could pop them from their aquatic homes.
I was coaxed several times to join the crew of divers, but each time I said "Oh no, thank you. I'm fine right here under the Bimini top." That was my easy excuse, since I am fair skinned and burn easily even with the highest SPF applied over and over again. I especially didn't want to join my fellow boaters because the jellyfish were overly abundant. Each person in the water felt the eerie brush of tentacles on flesh as the jellyfish floated by peacefully. Peaceful or not, I had no desire to enter the depths of the unknown waters we were floating in.
Finally, as the day rolled on and the number of jellyfish actually subsided, I became brave and said I wanted to enter the water to cool off. Well, that was all it took for my friends to encourage me to dive for the little shells they had been gathering all day. Since my fear had somewhat subsided, I asked myself "What do I have to lose?" I borrowed fins, a mask and a snorkel and set out to find the elusive scallop. I looked and looked in the waving green sea grass that is the scallop's favorite hiding place. Then finally I saw one. Down I dove. As I reached the bottom, the scallop caught sight of me with its hundred beady blue eyes. Its shell snapped closed tightly. I picked it up and quickly swam to the surface. What a feeling of great joy and accomplishment it brought me as I shouted out "I got one! I got one!" I dropped it down in the collection bag of a fellow snorkeler and set out to find more. One by one it became easier to find them and more exciting. That was it. I was hooked! Now each year we eagerly await the arrival of our friends so we can head out on our scalloping adventure.*
*Note: scallop fishing requires a fishing license. Make sure to check all regulations about licensure and limits before embarking on your own scalloping adventure.