Bobby Scarbrough has been helping customers buy supplies to catch scallops in Gulf County for eight years. As this year's season draws to a close, he said he’s seen more visitors coming into BlueWater Outriggers than ever before.
“We had much more business than we did at the same time last year,” he said. “And I think a lot of it has to do with the growth of the local area.”
The team at BlueWater helps scallopers purchase all the necessary supplies and licensing every year. Scarbrough said increasing numbers of people have been coming into the store in recent scallop seasons – a trend he sees continuing for years to come.
"We don't see it stopping anytime soon,” he continued. “I mean, I think we're gonna continue to see the growth that we're seeing now, as far as the town, and the community and even probably Gulf and Franklin counties.”
This year's scallop season, which ended on Sept. 24, followed two productive seasons, produced by compressed harvest windows caused by red tide and other algal blooms. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, scallop density measured before this season began produced above-average numbers.
FWC staff shared that it seemed to be a good season in the St. Joseph Bay. They said most people they talked to during creel surveys, which are conducted to monitor the experiences of scallopers, reported catching their limit.
This was certainly the case for many of Scarbrough’s customers, who he said often came back with fruitful yields.
“There’s been a lot of good input from our customers,” he said. “Folks would go out scalloping, you know, after they come in to get their goods from us. There was a lot of people that got their limits every time they went out.”
Scalloping limits in Gulf County were set at two gallons per person and 10 gallons per vessel of in-shell scallops. According to the FWC, the most common violation they saw this year and in years past was people taking over the set limits.
Rebecca Holley, marketing and communications specialist at the Gulf County Tourism Development Council, said it is important to remind visitors of limits and other rules associated with scalloping to ensure future seasons can attract just as many visitors.
“We’ve just been reminding visitors and scallopers about how to be safe, how to protect our waterways and seagrasses and out scallop population for upcoming seasons,” she said. “It’s just been a great season. Everyone’s been pretty respectful, and we just kind of remind them of our rules and to be safe and have fun.”