Monday, March 19, 2018

Tips for scallop season

HOMOSASSA — Scallop season starts Saturday, a three-day head start on the usual July 1 opening. So now's the time to get prepared to grab your share of the tasty shellfish.

Before you hit the water, here are a few tips from local fishing guide Jim Lemke, who spends most of his summer scouring the grass beds of the North Suncoast.


"Make sure all of your dive gear — your mask, fins and snorkel — are in proper working order," Lemke said. "You don't want to get out there and find that you have got a leaky mask."

Snorkeling gear that is only used once a year (typically during scallop season) can dry out, crack or rot away. Before you go, check your seals and straps. And remember the defogger.


"Check the weather and try to get an early start," Lemke added. "We typically have thunderstorms in the afternoon this time of year. You don't want to get caught out in the open when there is lightning."

Try to get your scalloping in before noon. Public boat ramps get busy, so think about launching in the dark then watch the sunrise on the water.


"Pick your tide," Lemke said. "You want to go scalloping on the last part of the outgoing tide and the first part of the incoming tide."

You won't have to kick as hard to cover ground during a slack tide. It is also easier to spot scallops hiding at the base of the sea grass blades that are standing straight up.

"Look for scallops near the sand holes," Lemke added. "Scallops are easiest to spot in the eel grass, a blade of which is as big around as a piece of fishing line."

Bay scallops are also in the turtle grass, which is wider and flatter than eel grass, but they are harder to see.

Where to go

Scallops need the right mix of saltwater and freshwater to survive. If rains are heavy, too much freshwater can flood the bay and wipe out a crop. If the water is too salty, they won't survive, either.

The state's prime scallop grounds — Homosassa, Crystal River and Steinhatchee — have the perfect combination of both fresh and saltwater.

You might hear people say, "The scallops are in." But the idea that scallops migrate is an old fish tale. Scallops don't travel far from the grass beds in which they were born. They spawn in the early fall, and it doesn't take many to repopulate an area. One scallop can lay a million eggs that float around for two weeks to a month. The eggs then attach to blades of grass, and grow until the summer scallop season.

If you are planning on scalloping, head north of the Pasco-Hernando county line. The scalloping grounds run west to the west bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County and remain open through Sept. 24.

Know the rules

Yes, you need a saltwater fishing license.

And, yes, there are limits. Recreation scallopers are allowed 2 gallons of whole bay scallops (still in the shell) or 1 pint (scallop meat out of the shell) per day. Any one vessel cannot exceed 10 gallons of whole bay scallops or a half-gallon of scallop meat.

Lemke suggests marking the 5-gallon mark on the inside of your bucket.

"Most of the five-gallon buckets that they sell at hardware stores actually hold six gallons," he said. "So if you fill the bucket to the top with scallops, you will have one gallon too many and a very expensive ticket."

You can catch bay scallops only by hand or with a landing or dip net. They cannot be sold for commercial purposes. For information, go to


Captainís Corner: Cold causes spiny lobsters to go into hiding

The cold front that ended Wednesday drove the offshore bottom temperatures back down into the low 60s. On dives Friday, my dive computer read 62 degrees at the bottom in 54 feet of water. On the next dive it read 60 in 62 feet. We were looking for ho...
Published: 03/18/18

Captainís Corner: Snook are the hot bite

Surface water temperatures have dipped into the low 60s, but the fish donít seem to mind. The longer days get the temperature up and helps keep it from getting into the danger zone at night. Snook have been the hot bite this past week and, believe it...
Published: 03/16/18
Updated: 03/17/18

It has been a crazy month regarding all the drastic weather changes. We experienced a record-breaking warming trend in February, followed by an endless amount of cold weather this month. The arrival times for many spring migrations of fish has been i...
Published: 03/16/18

Captainís Corner: Big trout moving out of the shallows

February seemed like March with record-breaking heat, but now March seems like February with below-average temperatures. This is a good thing. Spring fishing has started way too early in the past few years. The cold-water temperature we have now will...
Published: 03/14/18
Updated: 03/15/18

Captainís Corner: Temperature changes affect fly fishing

Having a fantastic river trip one day where we caught a lot of snook in shallow water on a fly and going back to the same location three days later and not finding any cooperative fish can be very puzzling. What happened? Recent warm weather was repl...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/14/18

Captainís Corner: Warming trend increasing activity over grass flats

Water temperatures have finally started to climb into the low 70s on the flats. The temperatures have been fluctuating with the past few cold fronts moving through. Large schools of reds should start showing up on the flats in the Pinellas Point area...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/13/18
Captainís Corner: Favorable water temperatures approaching

Captainís Corner: Favorable water temperatures approaching

We traditionally look at two holidays to signal the start of trolling season for kingfish and Spanish mackerel along with their attendant migratory companions, blackfin tuna, cobia and barracuda. These are St. Patrickís Day (March 17) and Columbus Da...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/12/18

Captainís Corner: Spring fishing is getting close

When the weather settles down in the bay area, spring fishing should shift quickly into high gear. Just before the recent heavy winds arrived and churned the nearshore gulf into a muddy mess, seasonal migratory fish were showing up all over town. For...
Published: 03/10/18
Updated: 03/11/18

Captainís Corner: Trout return to their early spring areas

Cool air has filtered down, giving us hopefully the last cold blow for awhile. Recent fronts have shaken things up. But fishing has been good considering the weather. Trout have pushed into their early spring areas, basically where they were five wee...
Published: 03/10/18
Captainís Corner: Snook, trout out in abundance as spring approaches

Captainís Corner: Snook, trout out in abundance as spring approaches

March is here, and the weather is great. This month is when we make that change toward spring fishing. Snook really ramps up, and trophy trout mixed with good redfish are not far behind. Snook has to be the most targeted fish for March. Just about ev...
Published: 03/09/18