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Recreational Shellfish Harvesting

Allowable shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) harvesting areas are established and managed for public health purposes by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture. Shellfish harvesting areas are opened and closed in accordance with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program Guidelines, and the open or closed status applies to both recreational and commercial harvest. 

All harvest prohibited when shellfish harvesting areas are in the closed status as determined by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 

You may view maps of these areas and determine the open or closed status at: www.floridaaquaculture.com or Shellfish Harvest Areas Map

If using the Shellfish Harvest Areas Map, be sure to click on your area below for daily status updates: 

  • Western Gulf: from Pensacola Bay in Escambia County to East Bay in Bay County
  • Central Gulf: from St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County to Wakulla County
  • Big Bend Gulf: from Horseshoe Beach in Dixie County to Citrus County
  • Southern Gulf: from Boca Ciega Bay in Pinellas County to Ten Thousand Islands in Collier County
  • Atlantic Coast: from the Fort Pierce Inlet in St. Lucie County to the Tolomato River in St. Johns County

For additional information call 850-617-7600.

Oysters Apalachicola Bay

Minimum Size Limit: 3 inches

The following are effective Sept. 1, 2019-May 31, 2020:

Daily Bag Limit: 5 gallons in shell per person or vessel, whichever is less

No harvest on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays or Labor Day.

Closed areas:

  • Portions of shellfish harvest areas known 1612 and 1622 are closed south of Sheepshead Bayou.
  • No person may harvest or possess an oyster in or on Florida waters within Bulkhead Bar Experimental Area from Sept. 3-May 31

Apalachicola Bay (as defined in Rule 68B-27.013(1)FAC) has specific closed seasons as determined by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Oysters Rest of State

Minimum Size Limit: 3 inches

Daily Bag Limit: Two 60-pound bags per person or vessel

Season: 

  • Closed June 1-Aug. 31 in Dixie, Levy and Wakulla counties
  • Closed July 1-Sept. 30 in all other counties

 

Hard Clams

(any species of the genus Mercenaria, also known as quahog)

Minimum Size Limit: 1-inch thick across the hinge

Daily Bag Limit: one 5-gallon bucket per person or two per vessel, whichever is less, per day.

Season: Open year-round.

Can oysters and barnacles be used as bait or chum for sheepshead?

Yes, so long as you are adhering to the regulations for each species.

Oysters and barnacles are very different when it comes to regulations.

Oysters have closed seasons, bag limits, size limits and can only be legally harvested in specific shellfish harvesting areas that are classified as "approved" or "conditionally approved" and in the "open" status. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Aquaculture manages these shellfish harvesting areas.

Barnacles on the other hand do not have size limits or specified bag limits, which means that you can harvest up to 100 pounds per person per day with a recreational saltwater fishing license and you can use them to chum sheepshead. You can also simply scrape them off bridge piles and allow them to sink and attract sheepshead. Do not scrape barnacles from private docks or other private structures without permission of the property owner.