Florida on a Tankful: Scalloping in Steinhatchee

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, July 14, 2017, 1:43 PM EDT

Each July along the river in Taylor County bearing the Native American name meaning "River," find the place where flowing adventures begin.

"It's not Steinhatchee,” said Jim Henley, pronouncing the name with a twang in his voice.

“If you come in here and you pronounce it Steinhatchee, they know you're a tourist,” Jim said again pronouncing the name of the town that often takes on several variations.

Steinhatchee, home to 1,200, is so small, there are no traffic lights, fast food outlets or major hotels.  In fact, Captain Jim jokes it's a law here that folks wave to each other, rather than use a turn signal in their car.

Captain Jim with H2Outings takes folks on a treasure hunt underwater.  What he doesn't do: Facebook, social media or websites.  

"It's ‘scallop.’  That's southern for ‘scallop,’” again having fun pronouncing the name.

The former CPA and corporate tax man traded in his desk job for an office with a view.  He left the business world behind and started H2Outings fishing charters on his boat.  Today, Captain Jim helps those on board cast away their own responsibilities.

“It takes a while sometimes,” he said of the process needed to disconnect. “They got to get through with their cell phones. They got to put that up,” Captain Jim said about hanging up on the real world and concentrating on simpler things, like putting on a snorkel.

Once fins are in place on feet, and masks are in place, visitors go overboard with a dive bag to collect the scallops. The underwater treasure hunt starts fast with the shells of the scallops coming into view.

"The shell feels hard. There's a texture with lines in it,” said 8-year-old Madeline Culbreth. “If they open their mouth, it's kinda squishy and it feels weird."

Madeline joined her grandfather Tony to search for the scallops.

"I got off the boat and swam!" Madeline said, after sitting out last summer, a little timid to jump in. However, don't expect Madeline to eat what's in their dive bag in 2017.

"I tried one last time I went scalloping and it wasn't very good,” Madeline shared.

Catching the scallops is like an Easter egg hunt. The shellfish hide in tall grasses, under seaweed-like plants and along sandy pits. Going on a day filled with sunshine will make finding the creatures easier, since their shells reflect in the sunlight.

Once everyone has caught their limit, the race is on to get back to shore, where locals are happy to clean your catch.

"And then you send them home happy,” Jim said.

Some visitors will have their catch cooked in town and spend the night, while others pick up their phones and return to the outside world.

Know Before You Go:

Scallop season in Steinhatchee runs through Sept. 10, 2017.

Other areas of the state, like Citrus County, enjoy scalloping through Sept. 25.

Many captains offer full day and half day excursions.  Weekend trips book fast.  Scallop cleaners on the dock accept cash only.  The average rate is $50 per cooler or boatload.

To contact Captain Jim Henley with H2Outings, send an e-mail: captainjimhenley@gmail.com.  He does not do Facebook or have a website.

Captain Jim departs from the River Haven Marina. GPS to: 1110 Riverside Drive, Steinhatchee, FL, 32359.   

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