There’s nothing like strolling the waters edge for treasured mementos of a time well spent. All that is needed is a bucket, a scoop, and respect for local shelling policies.

The most productive time of day to search for shells is at low tide, when the waves have left their daily deposit. The spring tides are the best, especially during full and new moons, when tides are at their highest and…the lowest. Tides info.

Shells collected must have no inhabitants, whether dead or alive. The shell must be void of any resident. This is key to the future of shelling for all of us! Disregarding this law will land you a hefty fine from regulation authorities. Sand dollars, star fish and sea urchins are also strictly regulated.

The varieties of shells found on Manasota Key include: Conch, junonia, lightning whelk, cockle, scallop, murex, olive and coquina. Two of Florida’s most famous shells are the Lion’s Paw and the Junonia. Lion’s Paws can be found on both coasts of Florida, but you’ll only find the Junonia on Florida’s West Coast.

Snorkeling is another means for collecting shells as our shores have very sloping bottoms where shells are plentiful.

Some folks don’t mind the imperfections of battered shells, but for seekers of unblemished beauties one must don the scuba gear and head to the depths even further from shore.

The common names of our area’s best-known shells are the angel wing (a clam that burrows deeply in the mud), the banded tulip (a snail shell shaped like an unopened tulip), and the lightning whelk (lightning-like color streaks). You’ll see shore birds nesting on mangrove islands, manatees and their calves grazing the sea grasses (from May through October) and dolphins enjoying the bay’s protected waters for raising their young.

Identifying your shells:

The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum has a great online shell guide that will help you recognize the various pieces in your collection. To browse shells commonly found in South West Florida, Click: HERE.