How to Catch Scallops on Holden Beach

Snorkel mask
Snorkel mask (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Catching scallops can be a fun activity for a day in the water for the entire family. Scallops can be caught either by your bare hand or a net. Grab your bright colored mesh bag (black or brown is hard to see under water), pull your fins on, put your mask in place and dive into the barrier island waters of Holden Beach, North Carolina, to begin your scallop adventure at a leisurely pace.

Things You'll Need

  • Fishing license
  • Mask
  • Swim fins
  • Snorkel
  • Mesh bag

Check the scallop season dates before planning the activity. Scalloping season dates change every year according to the findings of marine biologists. If the data shows an abundance of scallops the season will open. The restrictions were enforced after the red tide event that occurred in 1987-1988. Check with the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission for information. Since January 1st, 2007 a Coastal Recreational fishing license is required throughout the state's coastal and ocean waters. The license can be obtained through the DMF office or numerous tackle and bait shops.

Swim to the location or rent a boat if you don't have one. Finding scallops is easier from a boat if the sun is overhead and the light side of the shell is facing upward. If the scallop's dark side of the shell is facing up then diving is the best option. Most scallops are hidden in the sea grasses. Just move the blades of grass around until you spot one. If this is your first time scalloping the first one is always the hardest to locate. Scoop up the scallop and drop it into your bag. There is a bag limit of a ½ bushel a day per person with no minimum size requirements of the scallop.

Locate an experienced scalloper in the marina or take the catch to an restaurant. They will show you how to remove the white muscle from the shell and give you ideas on how to cook it. To keep the debris down of unwanted shells, Holden Beach partnered up with its neighbors Carolina Beach and Wilmington Beach and established recycling centers with bins for the shells.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Sea urchins are common and will sting if they feel threatened or accidentally stepped on.

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