The Beach Times

3 Ways to Enjoy Oyster Season on Cape Cod
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Cape Cod has always been oyster country, as even before the arrival of the pilgrims in 1620, French explorer Samuel de Champlain noted the abundance of the shellfish in areas like Wellfleet Harbor. And while the oysters of Cape Cod are known internationally, it is becoming more challenging to get your hands on them unless you come to The Cape.

The quality of Cape Cod oysters has spawned an entirely different type of visitor to the area, as people will rent a vacation home just for the opportunity to try some of the heavenly, fresh oysters found here.

Typically, Cape Cod oyster season runs from October until sometime in February or March, depending on when the supply starts to get low. Since oysters are one of the region's most valuable natural resources, officials regularly monitor the stock and adjust the season accordingly.

Keep in mind that oysters are commonly part of Thanksgiving and Christmas meals on Cape Cod, so if you want to do the holidays the Cape Cod way, make sure you track some down.

Once you arrive, you’ll find some different ways to get yourself some oysters, depending on how adventurous you are and how badly you want the freshest shellfish available on The Cape.

Do Some Oyster PickingFresh Oysters in a Basket

Feel like spending your vacation digging in the sand? For a small fee, non-residents can pick up a shellfishing permit to do their own oyster picking on many of Cape Cod’s beaches.

Before you head out on your recreational shellfishing excursion, make sure that you are aware of any town-specific rules that are present. These laws govern how many oysters you can harvest per day, the minimum size of the oysters you can pick, the times that you can be out in the water, and even the water temperature that you can be out in.

The rules are in place to prevent the supply of oysters from eroding too quickly and keep you safe, so either give the local town hall a call or ask about the rules when picking up your permit.

From there, you'll want to grab the right equipment. While you might luck out and find some oysters right along the beach, most are out in the water. You don't need anything fancy like a lobster trap, as just a few pieces of equipment will make you more comfortable as you venture into the ocean during Cape Cod oyster season.

Start by picking up a pair of chest waders, as you won't want to venture into the frigid Cape Cod waters without the necessary protection and these waders allow you to go into deeper water. A wetsuit jacket and a pair of waterproof gloves are advisable, especially when visiting in the winter. A floating bucket is also a good idea because it allows you store your catch without returning to shore.

There isn't a specific technique involved with harvesting oysters; all you have to do is search the shallow waters along the beach. Oysters don't bury themselves and are relatively easy to spot, so you shouldn't have much trouble as long as you end up in the right location.

Finding the perfect spot can be a challenge, as very few locals are willing to give theirs up. Look for other people searching for oysters because as long as they’re in a public area, you’re free to harvest there, too.

Find an Oyster Farm

The oysters of Wellfleet are known the world over, and there's no better place to get them than through the Puffer family at Wellfleet Oyster and Clam. Farmers catch wild oyster seed and then raise the oysters the same way that they would be in the wild. The result is some of the world's best oysters. You can order some by calling the company directly.

East Dennis Oyster Farm has a store in East Dennis where you can buy oysters by the box. You can also call ahead to place an order and schedule a pickup, which makes sense if you are staying in town or a neighboring community like Barnstable.

Chatham Shellfish Company has been in business since 1976 and sells its oysters throughout stores in the area. It is possible to order oysters directly through the company’s website, and they will be delivered right to the door of your vacation rental in a matter of days.

Visit an Oyster BarFresh Cape Cod Oysters

Of course, no visit to Cape Cod is complete without stopping by an oyster bar. In Wellfleet, Mac's Shack is the place to go. This restaurant doesn't allow reservations, so make sure that you get there early for access to incredibly fresh Wellfleet oysters, in addition to an extensive wine list. Keep in mind that this location doesn’t open until the very end of oyster season.

It doesn't get much better than Oyster Company Raw Bar & Grill in Dennis Port, which has been around for a long time and remains a favorite for locals. The restaurant harvests its own oysters, and clams and other shellfish are available there, too.

Sitting right on Main Street in Hyannis, The Naked Oyster Bistro & Raw Bar harvests oysters from its own farm, ensuring that you have access to the freshest shellfish available in any restaurant.

The World’s Best Oysters

As you can see, you won’t have any trouble finding somewhere to try some of the world’s best oysters on Cape Cod. What you might struggle with is figuring out which variety you like the best, as the oysters from each location differ slightly in their flavor.

Take some time exploring the local oyster scene to see if you can tell the difference between the varieties or, better yet, get out there and harvest your own this winter.



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