"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." - Aldo Leopold

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This Summer's Scallops

Sure, they are barely-sentient creatures that probably possess as much awareness of danger as a tall pine does in a wicked lightning storm, but I nevertheless contemplate if they can grasp the peril that is about to strike when I hover above them. With those dozens of blue eyes and that last one frantic swish to safety, you can’t help but believe they know something terrible is amiss.

Scallops. I love scalloping. Over the last two weekends I’ve been to Homosassa in snorkeled pursuit of these bivalves, and I have experienced the ying and yang of this sport.

Let’s begin two weekends ago. A strong incoming tide silted the water compromising visibility. The scallops were there, but you couldn’t see them. So we picked our way through the water column fighting the tide – it was exhausting. We still collected several gallons, but it was work.

Last weekend was the lunar opposite. The tide slowly trickled out, leaving the water clear as gin. In five feet of water, we hammered them, limiting out in about an hour.

Both weekends we hunted in the same spot. Just goes to show that certain variables dictate success. Sure, we could have hit our quota that first weekend, but that tide was too much and Publix too accessible if we really felt like making up the difference.

I did notice a large armada of boats settled off Chazzahowitzka, farther south than I typically run. The mouth of the Homosassa was largely vacant. We ran North to Ozello, and there we rejoined the fleet. The closer to Crystal River we got, the larger the clams seemed to be. I’ve not spoken to anyone who has dove off Chazz, but I’d be curious to see what their bag has been up that way.

And now some random thoughts.

- If you don’t know how to navigate your vessel on the correct side of the channel, you probably need to be beaten severely - nothing more frustrating in these narrow waterways than some clown clogging up the works by cruising down the middle at several knots slower than everyone crowded behind him. I see it every trip, and it is infuriating. The rocks and oyster bars of Homosassa are challenging enough without this interference.

- The first weekend we kept our catch in a five-gallon bucket then iced them down at the house. Well, the water in the bucket heated up and killed them before icing. This made the meat loosen from the shells, and we lost quite a few gorgeous white nuggets to the Shop-Vac before finally resorting to the tedious spoon treatment. The following weekend we kept them in a cooler with salt water that, well, kept them cooler. We transferred them to ice and lost very few. Moral of the story, bring an extra cooler on board to store your scallops.

- Whoever came up with the Shop-Vac method of cleaning scallops need some kind of Nobel prize. Makes the work so much easier. For the first-timers, purchase a small Shop-Vac. Cut the muscle away from one side of the shell and place the hose over the white meat. The goop is sucked away leaving the sweet meat ready to be scooped into ice water - that is if you followed my tip above.

- Speaking of working easier, when you’re back on the dock contemplating a libation as you clean the clams, consider a rum such as Mount Gay. Bourbon is too much in the heat.

Scallop season will run through September. This is a silver medal year off the Nature Coast, in my opinion. I’m hearing Steinhatchee doesn’t have the numbers it did last year, but surely some are there. Get on out and enjoy yourself.

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