Florida isn’t always a fun place during the dog days of summer. Tourism slows down, work slows down, air conditioning speeds up and squirrels even lazily stretch belly down on cool shaded bricks, too steamed out by a combination of hot, hot sun and massive amounts of warm, water-saturated air to do anything but nap. It gets really hot like that. But for those lucky residents and summer tourists along the Nature Coast of Florida, sticky humid days in late July and August are what they have been excitedly anticipating all year long. That’s when the scalloping season gets going, and it’s time for plopping and plunking.
Step 1: PLOPPING
The first step to successfully having fun while scalloping is finding a nice spot along the Nature Coast and plopping into the water off a shallow skiff, boat or kayak with a mesh bag, snorkel, mask and fins. Steinhatchee, Homosassa and Crystal River are the mecca of scalloping in Florida, as the bay scallops that draw the locals and summer tourists inhabit waters ranging from four to ten feet deep with sandy sea grass beds, which the Nature Coast is abundantly blessed with. Scallopers get to spend all day swimming around and cooling off, avoiding the withering humidity with the added bonus of catching up to a two gallon bucketful of scallops each day. Although these small mollusks can move they don’t have the ability to go very far very fast. Mostly scallops just hide on the bottom all day long just like shallow saltwater Easter eggs, with a delicious tasting treasure inside. No hard work involved. Just plop in and leisurely wander around in waist deep water and you will find them.
Step 2: PLUNKING
You plopped in and snorkeled around for a while, getting to beat the heat and see probably a lot of other fantastic things out there besides scallops, like small rays, sharks, dolphins, shells, shrimp, fish, crabs and countless other neat and fascinating things. Now the other part of scalloping is plunking. While you’ve been out exploring you are bound to have caught a few scallops. So you swim back to your boat or kayak and take them from your mesh bag and start dropping them in a two gallon bucket. You’ll hear a plunk. Just keep plunking them in the bucket into you fill it up. It’s that easy. Take some friends to plunk up their own bucketful of scallops. The more the merrier. And as a reward for the more plunking you and your friends do, the bigger your fresh scallop dinner will be. Easy to clean and quick to cook by a variety of recipes and methods, bay scallops are a deliciously decadent shellfish that taste as good as to almost be sinful. That is a heck of a reward for snorkel wandering all day.
Some extra tips besides plopping and plunking would be to hire a guide if you are new to scalloping. Professionals are going to have the boat and more importantly the local area knowledge which it takes to get you and your family or friends to a good plopping and plunking spot. And know that scallops don’t take long to cook. Whether steaming, pan-frying, searing, grilling or sautéing overcooking scallops makes them go from almost melt in your mouth ecstasy morsels too chewing a salted piece of rubber not unlike the snorkel you had in your mouth most of the day. Don’t waste a good day plopping and plunking by messing up the reward dinner.
This summer, skip the Florida sauna and book a scalloping trip. Plop and plunk your way to a summer of tasty fun!