As summer fades into the horizon, the vibrant coastal town of Port St. Joe, Florida, eagerly anticipates the arrival of a highly anticipated annual event: Scallop Season. From August 16th to September 24th, locals and visitors flock to the pristine waters of St. Joe Bay in search of the delectable bay scallops. This cherished tradition celebrates not only the region's abundant marine life but also the community's passion for coastal living. In this blog post, we will delve into the history of Scallop Season, explore the beauty of St. Joe Bay, learn how to scallop, and discover the best scallop cooking recipes.
The History of Scallop Season
Scallop Season has deep roots in Florida's coastal heritage, tracing back to the early 1900s when fishing communities thrived along the Gulf Coast. Native Americans and early settlers recognized the significance of these bivalves, using them as a staple food source and even as tools for their unique fan-shaped shells. Over the years, the tradition of Scallop Season evolved into a beloved recreational activity, attracting tourists and locals alike. The state of Florida officially established regulations to protect the bay scallop population, ensuring a sustainable harvest and preserving the region's natural beauty.
The Enchanting St. Joe Bay
Nestled along Florida's Forgotten Coast, St. Joe Bay is a haven for nature enthusiasts and water sports enthusiasts alike. Renowned for its crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life, this scenic bay offers the perfect environment for bay scallops to flourish. The bay's unique blend of freshwater streams and seawater creates an optimal habitat for these delightful creatures. As visitors venture into the calm, shallow waters, they are greeted with picturesque views of seagrass beds and oyster reefs, providing a serene backdrop for a memorable scalloping experience.
How to Scallop: Gear Up for the Adventure
Scalloping is an enjoyable and accessible activity for all ages, making it a popular pastime during Scallop Season. Here's what you'll need to embark on your scalloping adventure:
- a. Snorkeling Gear: A mask, snorkel, and fins are essential for exploring the shallow waters of St. Joe Bay. This gear allows you to observe the seabed and spot scallops with ease.
- b. Mesh Bag: A mesh bag is ideal for storing the harvested scallops while in the water. The bag allows water to flow through, keeping the scallops fresh until you return to shore.
- c. Florida Saltwater Fishing License: Before you set out, ensure you obtain the necessary fishing license for scalloping in Florida waters. This ensures compliance with state regulations and supports conservation efforts.
- d. Sun Protection: Don't forget to pack sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun's rays during your time in the water.
- e. Cooler: A cooler with ice is essential for preserving the scallops' freshness after the day's harvest.
*Remember, the daily limit is 2 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or 1 pint of scallop meat per person. Per vessel, the daily limit is a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or 1/2 gallon of bay scallop meat (1/2 gallon = 4 pints).
Understanding the Bay Scallop
The bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) is a species of saltwater clam found along the eastern seaboard of the United States, including the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike its ocean-dwelling cousins, the bay scallop is adapted to the brackish waters of estuaries and bays. Characterized by their colorful shells with alternating bands, these bivalves have a sweet and tender white muscle, making them a sought-after delicacy for seafood enthusiasts.
Best Scallop Cooking Recipes
Once the day's scallop harvest is complete, it's time to savor the fruits of your labor with delightful culinary creations. Here are two classic scallop recipes to try:
a. Garlic Butter Scallops: Ingredients:
- 1 lb fresh scallops
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse the scallops and pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and melt the butter.
- Add minced garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Place the scallops in the skillet and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side until they develop a golden-brown crust.
- Drizzle lemon juice over the scallops and garnish with chopped parsley, salt, and pepper.
- Serve immediately and enjoy the succulent flavors of the sea.
b. Scallop Ceviche: Ingredients:
- 1 lb fresh scallops, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and finely diced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 avocado, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a bowl, combine the sliced scallops, lime juice, and orange juice. Allow the scallops to marinate in the citrus juices for about 15-20 minutes until they turn opaque.
- Drain excess liquid from the scallops and transfer them to a clean bowl.
- Add diced red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and diced avocado to the scallops. Gently toss to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Refrigerate the ceviche for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
- Serve chilled as a refreshing appetizer or light meal.