At its December meeting in Gainesville, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discussed draft changes that would create regionally-specific bay scallop open seasons and would allow a trial scalloping season in state waters off Pasco County in 2018. Stakeholder input gathered over the past year was presented to the Commission along with an overview of the bay scallop fishery, an update on the status of scallops in St. Joseph Bay, and proposed management changes for the fishery.
This draft proposal includes both long- and short-term changes and will be brought back before the Commission at the February meeting for a final public hearing.
Regionally-specific open seasons, if approved, would mean the timing of the summer bay scallop season would vary across the allowable harvest area to provide a better scalloping experience for the public and maximize the benefits to various regions. For some regions, that means having a season that starts later so that scallops are bigger when the season begins and for other areas, that means having a season that starts during early summer to allow for more opportunities for those on summer break.
Allowing a short trial season in Pasco County, which has been closed to harvest since 1994, would likely provide an economic benefit to the county and create opportunities for local residents to scallop in their nearby waters.
If approved in February, long-term regionally-specific open seasons would include:
- Franklin County through northwestern Taylor County (including Carrabelle, Lanark, and St. Marks): July 1 through Sept. 24.
- The remaining portion of Taylor County and all of Dixie County (including Keaton Beach and the Steinhatchee area): the third Saturday in June through Sept. 10.
- Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties (including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa): July 10 through Sept. 10.
If approved in February, the following open seasons will be created by executive order for 2018 only:
- St. Joseph Bay and Gulf County: Aug. 17 through Sept. 30, 2018.
- Pasco County: Establish a 10-day open season to run July 20-29, 2018.
The FWC will set a long-term season in St. Joseph Bay once the population in that area has more fully rebuilt.
Share your input on these season changes by visiting MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments or emailing Marine@MyFWC.com. You can also learn more by viewing a workshop presentation at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Public Comments/Workshops” and “Workshops.”