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Forget farm to table, your Florida summer adventure should be catch-and-cook. Here’s how and where to do it

June 05, 2022
6 min read
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Summer is prime time for bountiful seafood in Florida’s waters and recreational saltwater fishing brings millions of visitors to the state each year. Florida Fish and Wildlife reported more than 1.5 million recreational saltwater fishing licenses were sold in 2019, and with the increase in interest among travelers for outdoor activities that allow for social distancing in the COVID-19 pandemic’s wake, fishing is more of a draw than ever.

This summer, consider chartering a boat and heading out into the deep blue for a day in the sunshine and fresh air. After you’ve dropped hook, line and sinker and reeled in that succulent seafood, head to a local restaurant where they’ll do all the dirty work. All you have to do is order some sides, a frosty beverage and tuck into taste your hard day’s work.

(Photo courtesy of Pure Florida)

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Down by the bay: Scalloping in Crystal River

Season: July 1 to Sept. 24, 2022

If you can snorkel, you can scallop. The shallow grass flats — between four and six feet deep — of the Gulf of Mexico are where you’ll find the tiny, sweet bay scallops that eat like popcorn and taste like heaven. They’re elusive — with dark purple shells and twenty-ish pinhead-sized neon blue eyes guarding the tender morsel inside — but that makes the reward for spotting and plucking them from the grasses even more satisfying.

The guided scalloping package from The Plantation on Crystal River, about an hour’s drive from Tampa International Airport (TPA), makes this experience easy. The guided package includes a two-night stay in a garden or water view room or villa, daily breakfast, a day out with one of the area’s top captains that includes mask, fins, snorkel and souvenir scalloping bag, and a catch-and-cook feast at the hotel’s signature restaurant, West 82.

Related: Giant flamingo lands at Tampa International Airport

If you have a Florida recreational saltwater fishing license, you can head out on your own boat (or rent one from one of the marinas nearby) and scallop as long as you like. Bring a cooler and put your catch on ice for the trip from the Gulf to one of Crystal River’s many restaurants offering to cook your catch. On my last trip, we settled into Dan’s Clam Stand on N. Sunshine Path, and they were more than happy to broil, fry or saute the 10 pounds of bay scallops we hauled in that day.

Rates at The Plantation on Crystal River start at $949 mid-week for two nights for the guided tour package, and $479 mid-week for two nights for unguided, bring-your-own-boat packages.

(Photo courtesy of Plantation on Crystal River)

Spiny season: Lobstering in the Florida Keys

Mini Season: July 27 to 28, 2022

Regular Season: Aug. 1 to March 31, 2022

Florida’s spiny lobsters are different from the ones you’ll find in New England. They’re clawless, with pearly white meat only found in the tail. They’re also super feisty, so confidence is key. Recreational divers can tackle these crustaceans during the mini lobster season, which is always the last Wednesday and Thursday in July. This year, it’s the 27th and 28th of the month.

There is a limit to how many lobsters you can pluck from the ocean floor — six per person in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park, and 12 per person for the rest of Florida. The lobster’s length between head and first tail joint must also measure longer than three inches. Your boat captain and crew should be able to tell you which lobsters are big enough to keep.

You’ll also need a recreational Florida saltwater fishing license and a lobster permit to harvest unless you go out with a charter like Saltwater Seafari, located on Big Pine Key. Bring your catch to a seafood shack like Conch Republic Seafood Company or The Lobster Shack, both located on Key West, and they’ll clean and cook your haul.

Related: 9 of our favorite points hotels in the Florida Keys

Marriott Bonvoy members should consider a few nights at Playa Largo Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection, on 15 acres of beachfront Key Largo. Currently, member rates for mini season start at $636 per night for a Bay Front Suite. Another option for World of Hyatt members is the Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa, a Category 7 hotel, where mini-season rates start at $599 for a King guest room with partial ocean view.

(Photo courtesy of Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Fish tails: Red snapper on the Paradise Coast

Season: June 1 to Aug. 31, 2022

Snook would usually be on the menu for recreational fishing this summer, but 2022’s snook season has been relegated to catch-and-release only. Instead, red snapper season is in full swing, starting at the beginning of the month, with plenty of charters to take you out and restaurants to clean and cook those beauties.

Pure Florida, which runs out of Naples, is the top choice for a charter, running a series of trips for snapper for the three-month season. They also offer private boats for small groups. Once you catch your fish, they’ll keep them on ice in a cooler for the trip back to the mainland, where you can take your bounty to the Tin City area of Naples, where restaurants like Riverwalk and Pinchers will broil, fry or blacken the fish. If you’re going out on your own boat, you’ll just need a recreational fishing license from Florida Fish & Wildlife, which is available at most bait and tackle shops.

(Photo courtesy of Pure Florida)

Related: The ultimate guys’ fishing weekend

Stay at the Hilton Naples, where weeknights this summer start at $218 per night for Hilton Honors members or 54,000 points for night for a standard room. A more luxurious, yet still family-friendly, option is the Ritz-Carlton, Naples, which starts at $900 per night mid-week, or 168,000 points for Marriott Bonvoy members. If you’re planning for next year, Four Seasons will open the Naples Beach Club, the first Four Seasons on Florida’s Gulf Coast, formerly the site of the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, which closed in May 2021.

Featured image by Universal Images Group via Getty
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases