Saturday, June 23, 2018
Outdoors

A day on the water: Scalloping with Dave Markett (w/video)

HOMOSASSA — When Dave Markett started taking people scalloping, gas cost 36 cents a gallon and Richard Nixon had been president for less than two years.

Forty-seven years later, Markett, 67, still leads trips near Homosassa during scallop season, which runs from the beginning of July to late September. During the rest of the year, he captains fishing and alligator hunting trips.

"It if bites and fights, I go after it," he said.

In early August, at the height of scallop season, Markett often finds himself a few miles offshore near St. Martins Keys, between the mouths of the Homosassa and Crystal Rivers.

The water is about 5 feet deep in the morning — ideal for catching bay scallops. Markett calls the area "scallop heaven."

Scalloping involves little equipment and even less instruction. Bring a mask, snorkel, mesh bag to store the scallops and a set of fins, then scan the beds of turtle grass below for the round, corrugated shells.

When you find a scallop, dive down and snatch it quickly, before it can swim away or pinch you with its valves.

"Everybody can do it," Markett said. "It's something that you can do when you're 70 and when you're 4 or 5 years old."

Markett prefers to scallop in the morning, when the tide is low or outgoing and Florida's typical afternoon storms haven't hit. He also keeps an eye on water clarity — visibility can be poor after a storm — and wind level. Strong winds aren't a dealbreaker, Markett said, but they can create waves that make snorkeling unpleasant.

• • •

Like many Florida natives, Markett began scalloping young. He went with his parents and sister behind Honeymoon Island to scallop as early as age 3, the start of an addiction he could never quite shake.

After getting his captain's license right out of college, Markett has led scalloping trips ever since. With nearly half a century of guiding under his belt, what keeps him coming back year after year?

"It's certainly not the money I make from guiding," Markett said. "It's the most beautiful office in the world, but there are very few retired guides."

On a clear day, the horizon stretches north forever. Cormorants perch on water markers and dry their wings. Bottlenose dolphins sometimes escort Markett's boat as he enters Homosassa Bay from the channel.

From several miles away, smoke visibly rises from the generators at Duke Energy's power plant in Crystal River.

Underwater, during the scallop hunt, all that detail goes away. It's just you, the tall grass and the Argopecten irradians.

• • •

Scalloping isn't just a fun activity: The scallops make a tasty meal, too. (Per day, you can catch up to 2 gallons of scallops in shell per person, or a pint of scallop meat, according to FWC regulations. Each vessel can catch up to 10 gallons in shell or half a gallon of meat.)

Markett said he has mastered the art of frying scallops over the years, preferring to saute the meat.

"The trick to frying is to get the grease really hot," he said. "They're very delicate, they're quite rich and they don't take heavy seasoning."

Of course, Markett said, you can buy scallops in a grocery store for much cheaper than it costs to catch them on a day trip.

"But the idea of the wonderful family activity is priceless," he said.

"It takes kids away from their electronic devices and puts them in a natural environment."

     
Comments

Captainís Corner: Cool off, bring home a tasty dinner with scalloping

Whatís the best way to cool off in July and August? Go scalloping. Itís like going on an underwater Easter egg hunt that results in a bag of tasty scallops to cook up. The most popular places to scallop are in Homosassa and Steinhatchee in 2 feet of ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Captainís Corner: Size of sea trout a welcome surprise in Pinellas grass beds

A nice surprise has been the quality size of the spotted sea trout on deeper grass beds in southern Pinellas. Typically, summertime trout tend to run smaller than the 16- to 20-inch trout weíve been finding. Fishing the deep grass with scattered sand...
Published: 06/21/18

Captainís Corner: Offshore fishing will be strong for awhile

June and July offer some of the yearís best offshore fishing. Targets such as red snapper, blackfin tuna, mahi≠mahi, wahoo and sailfish make their way through our area and make appearances on many trips to depths of 120 feet or more. Red snapper are ...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18

Captainís Corner: Itís a good time to focus on snook

Snook have been a main focus on my most recent trips. This time of year, snook inhabit the beaches, gathering in the ditches and swashes along shore. Jetties or rock structures are also a favorite habitat for snook to lurk, looking to ambush bait fis...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Captainís Corner: Tips on targeting American Red Snapper

American Red Snapper (ARS) season opened a few days ago and some types of bottom are holding bigger schools of ARS then other bottom types. The hard bottom areas that most fishermen prefer are holding large schools of ARS, but the fish have yet to m...
Published: 06/18/18

Captainís Corner: Trout bite at its best

The trout bite has been the best Iíve seen all year. Fish up to 26 inches have been common recently. Fish are sitting on the flatsí deeper edges, where the water is deeper and cooler, and moves a little more swiftly. Live sardines and hard plastic ba...
Published: 06/16/18
Updated: 06/17/18

Captainís Corner: Fishing this month is all about diversity

This is the month of diverse opportunity. The choice of species is unlimited, as long as you have the bait. You can target snook and tarpon in the morning, then fish for Spanish mackerel, bluefish, snapper, sharks and cobia in the afternoon. The tarp...
Published: 06/15/18

Captainís Corner: When itís tarpon time, itís also shark time

Tarpon get most of the attention when talking about exciting fly action for large fish in our area. Baitfish are more prolific, and large tarpon follow their forage and populate most of our local waters. Following them are fish that consider tarpon t...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/14/18

Captainís Corner: This is your best time for tarpon fishing

Now is the best time to target tarpon. Silver kings are cruising the beaches on their yearly migration up and down the stateís west coast. This weekís strong new moon tides and the strong full moon tides in two weeks provide some of the best action f...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18

Captainís Corner: Turn attention to gag grouper and red snapper

Attention has turned to gag grouper and red snapper for many offshore fishermen. Red snapper can be best targeted in waters 105 feet and deeper, with some available in water as shallow as 60 feet. Although the snapper will be found on high profile st...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18