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Scallops are a popular mollusk harvested both commercially and recreationally. Renowned for being a seafood delicacy, scalloping is also a fun activity to be had by all. In the following we will dive into the origins of scalloping and how it’s changed over time.

Scallops in Ancient Times

Scalloping has a rich history that dates back centuries. The practice of scalloping can be traced to various coastal regions around the world. While the exact origins are difficult to pinpoint, it is believed to have begun in ancient times, particularly in coastal civilizations such as ancient Greece and Rome.

Tracing the evolution of scallop cookery is challenging because the word is used in several contexts with different spellings. Dish names could be referring to the mollusk as well as describing a method for preparing any kind of minced meat presented in a scallop shell. Many European cultures have old recipes that use scallops, such as in France the “coquille de Saint-Jacques” and the “conchiglia di San Giacomo” in Italy. The Romans enjoyed scallops as confirmed by food historians and Aristotle is known to have held them in high regard.

Scalloping gained prominence in medieval Europe, where it was considered a valuable resource and an important source of sustenance for coastal communities. During this time, hand-held dredges, similar to rakes, were used to collect scallops from shallow waters. As maritime exploration expanded in the 15th and 16th centuries, scalloping became prevalent in regions such as the Mediterranean, Atlantic coastlines, and later, the New World. As settlers realized they could make a living farming them and growing their own, scallops became a big export for locations across New England. Appetite for scallops grew through the years and was in full swing by the 1900’s.

History of Recreational Harvesting

The history of recreational harvesting of scallops, as a leisure activity, is a relatively recent development compared to commercial scalloping. It gained popularity in the mid-20th century as people began to explore the coastal waters for recreational purposes.

In the United States, recreational scalloping took off in the 1950s and 1960s, primarily in coastal regions of the Northeast, such as Cape Cod in Massachusetts and Long Island in New York. The abundance of scallops in these areas, coupled with the growing interest in outdoor activities, led to the emergence of recreational scalloping as a popular pastime.

During the initial years, recreational scalloping was often done by wading in shallow waters and handpicking the scallops, similar to the traditional methods used by commercial scallopers. However, as the popularity of the activity grew, recreational fishermen began using small boats or even kayaks to access scallop-rich areas, expanding the possibilities for enthusiasts to explore further offshore.


Modern Scalloping

Scalloping, an activity cherished by all, is a fun and great way to get outdoors while also gathering a delicious meal for yourself. Where in the past, a rake like tool was used, scallopers now use snorkeling gear and a dip net to gently catch scallops and explore the underwater world. Often using small boats or kayaks and storing the harvested scallops in a live well to keep them alive and fresh. After the hunt, they are often brought to shoreside restaurants to be cooked or taken and prepared at home. It doesn’t take a professional chef to create a delicious dish out of scallops.

Florida is a very popular scalloping spot due to the large amount of scallops that inhabit the coastal regions of the state as well as it being one of, if not the only place where one can go scalloping. With scalloping hot spots such as Crystal River, Homosassa, Keaton Beach, and others, Florida offers plenty of locations for one to go scalloping.

Note that Florida has regional seasons depending on location. Be sure to check when the season is if you plan to harvest scallops.

Book Your Scalloping Trip

If you’re looking to go scalloping, checkout our scalloping charters to book a guided trip with one of our local and professional scallop guides to get out and explore what the outdoors has to offer.