Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scallops and Sea Hags

Sure, we are in Miami a-workin away the whole live long day, but that does not mean, my friends, that there is no fun to be had. We love to take a quick trip up the West coast of Florida to a sleepy little town called Steinhatchee this time of year, to take part in the 8 week long bay scalloping season. So we grabbed our little 20 foot bowrider, and hit the highway. Bay scallops are the smaller scallops, not the giant sea scallops, and have a delicious, sweet flavor. They are about 5/8ths of an inch across (the meat that is), give or take. And, catching these little guys is really a lot of fun. No scuba needed here, this is stricktley a snorkel and mask event. The hardest part is actually finding Steinhatchee in the first place, MapQuest is worthless, so don't even try it. It seems that Steinhatchee is actually the westernmost edge of the Bermuda triangle, as it is so remote that it seems to move from year to year. Once you get there though, it is a beautiful little town on the river and the bay, huge oaks draped in Spanish moss, and cool evening breezes. The people are full of smiles, and Southern hospitality. Untill you get to the boat ramp. You and the other 250 boats, then it is an "organized boatramp show", the likes of which I have never seen. The idea is to get in line with your boat trailer, and wait until one of four ramps is free. Then, you are supposed to launch or retrieve your boat in as quick a fashion as possible. Safety and common sense are totally dispensible notions at this important time, the key is speed. There were trucks that had the trailer ball mounted to the front bumper, so no backing down the ramp was needed. There were retrievals made with 4 spotters in the bed of the truck, and two riding on the trailer up out of the water. There were Daisy Dukes and beer bellies everywhere. White smoking rear tire full on burnouts, all the way up the ramp. No-one batted an eye. Or seemed to lose one either during this people on the hood as the procession went down the street, kids sitting on tilted up outboards while the boat was snatched from the water, 10 people in the boat as it went off into town, scalloping event. Want some good clean fun, but don't like scallops? Come to the Steinhatchee River boat ramp around 3PM during scallop season. And bring the popcorn.

So we joined in, and had a blast. The object is to first locate the little suckers, as they are never in the same place twice. They actually swim, and can take off on you by clamping closed their shell as the propell themselves around. They can see too, they have a row of irridescant blue eyes, and when they see you coming, they either take off for the hills, or more often they clamp up and hope that you dont see them. This tactic is often self defeating for them though, as they see you first most of the time and you in turn see them because they move when they clamp closed.

The reason they see you first is because they have a lot more eyes than you do. And they somehow know that they are delicious, so they are always wary of hungry snorkelers.

Each person can keep 2 gallons of these scallops a day, and that ends up being about a pound of fresh, cleaned scallops. We had our son Dylan aboard one day, and some friends with us too, and we caught our share over a three day trip. It was a lot of fun, and we got some much needed time in the water. There is no need to actually bring a boat either, as we found ourselves surrounded by rental boats from a place called Sea Hag Marina. It was really jumping there, as we stopped for fuel one day. They have a store with interesting Sea Hag branded t-shirts, full marine supplies, and of course an ouside waterfront bar and eating facility.

So, go there, and find some scallops. It is pretty easy, just find some patchy grass in about 3-5 feet of water and jump in. The learning curve is pretty quick, and before you know it, you will have a bucket of scallops yourself. Yum yum!