FLORIDA — It's been a little over a week since scallop season started in Citrus and Hernando counties, and so far local captains say they haven't found as many scallops as they did last year.
- Scallop numbers down so far this season
- Experts say it's normal for scallop populations to fluctuate
- GRAPHIC BELOW: Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Numbers
On the first full weekend of scallop season marinas in Homosassa are normally packed with people bringing back their share of scallops, but this year, many are quiet because captains say the scallops just aren't there.
"It's actually worse than many years of the past," Cephas Christian with Seven C's Fishing Charters said.
"It reminds me of the time when they first started seeding the scallops out here, when it was really bad and they finally got the scallops to come back. It is comparable to then,” he added.
According to the preseason counts from Florida Fish and Wildlife, this year's numbers are almost 80 percent less than last year in Citrus County, with 21.2 scallops in a 200-square meter area last year, and just about four in the same range this year.
The numbers are down in Hernando too, with 3.5 scallops in a 200-square meter area last year, and just two in the same range this year.
Research Scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute say it's normal for the scallop populations to fluctuate. They also say it can be contributed to several environmental factors and are looking into exactly what those factors are.
"We'll continue to monitor it and we'll continue to update our managers as to what levels we're seeing especially in our post season survey after the season closes gives us an idea of what spawning stock might be out there for next year and we'll have those discussions," Research Scientist Ryan Gandy said.
In the meantime, Gandy encourages people to practice personal conservation if they aren't seeing a lot of scallops, helping the ones that are there grow.
While Christian said he's still able to operate successful fishing charters, he's hopeful the scallop numbers will improve as the season goes on.
"I know that there are scallops out there because the shrimpers are catching them in their net. They usually run deep. That's not where most people want to go snorkeling or anything like that because of visibility and the depth," he explained.
Scallop season goes until September 24 in Hernando and Citrus counties. Pasco County's season runs from July 19 to 28.