Do you love oysters? We certainly do! Last weekend, we head out to Wolfe Property State Park at Port Ludlow for oyster harvesting. Yes, every shell you see on the beach in the picture above is oyster! So many! And if you are big oyster lover, you might also be happy to know that the oysters here are HUGE!
Shellfish and Seaweed harvesting, as well as crabbing, is very common in the Pacific Northwest because we have plenty of these. And it makes a good sport to go out and enjoy the beaches and sunshine. But before you are all excited about it, you might want to know some basics before heading out.
- Get your shellfish and/or crab fishing license. A Shellfish/Seaweed License is required for all SHELLFISH (except crawfish ) and SEAWEED harvest. If you intend to catch crabs, you will also need a catch record card, and additional endorsement to your shellfish license to fish for DUNGENESS CRAB in Puget Sound. Check Recreational Crab Fishing for more information. You can purchase online or at local license vendors. We got ours at Fred Meyers.
- Know the rules. Check in advance to see if the harvesting season is open. Read the rules for seasons, size, and bag limits as this may change every season. You can find out current harvesting season information by calling the toll free WDFW Emergency Shellfish Rule Change Hotline (866) 880-5431 or check online on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches.
- Be prepared. Buy the right tools for the game. Depending on the shellfish you are harvesting, you may need special tools to make the task easier. Check the weather forecast and tide table as you plan. Always dress in layers as the weather at the beach can change drastically over the period of time you are there. And wear rainboots or construction rubber boots. You may also need to prepare lunch to eat on site as most of these beaches do not have food amenities near by.
Doing these steps 1-3 took me one week since I was the only one planning and preparing for my family of five. (And cleaning and cooking the collected oysters and clams took me the entire weekend!) That goes my week.
Back to our adventure. So we set out at 9.15am on Saturday morning, hoping to catch the 9.40am ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, only to find that we were too late and we end up taking the 10.30am ferry instead. We still arrived at Wolfe Property State Park at the lowest tide time but there weren’t any parking left. If you arrive early, you may be able to get a parking in the limited parking lot. Otherwise, your early arrival may also buy you some time to wait for people to leave. But chances are, people aren’t leaving. So Daddy actually dropped us and park the car elsewhere and walk in. Be warned, there is no other parking along the Seven Sisters Road that leads up to the beach. You will have to park really far and walk in.
Once you are on the beach, be ready to collect the oysters of your liking. They are everywhere on the beach! The reason why there is abundance of oysters on this beach is because this beach is enhanced with oysters (and clams) by the state. It receives regular oyster seeding since the 1990s. The oyster plants also aided the natural production of oysters on this beach. The best place for oyster is in the planted bed north of the Seven Sisters access.
We were advised by our friends to pick medium-sized oysters that are curved on one side and flat on the other. Bigger oysters can be harder to open and smaller oysters need more time to grow and spawn before you kill them. All oysters have to be opened on the beach as the shells need to be returned to the beach. The opened shells provide a substrate for new oysters to grow on and beaches need this for the shellfish to recover from the fishing.
If you have never shuck an oyster before, the task of opening an oyster can be tough. Be sure to watch some tutorial videos at home before the fishing day. A good oyster knife is very necessary.
And once you open your first (or last) oyster, you will feel really accomplished!
While Daddy was opening the oysters (it’s really hard work!), the kids and I went to look for clams. A good numbers of native littleneck clams and Manila littleneck clams can be found over most of the beach. Likewise with oysters, the beach also receives regular WDFW plants of Manila clam seed. Some of the best clam digging is right in front of the access trail at the end of Seven Sisters Road. Butter clams are found in the lower intertidal zone. Geoducks and horse clams are present in sand and mud throughout the lower intertidal zone. Horse clams are more abundant, but some geoducks can be found in areas lower than -2.0 feet. This is also a good beach for Cockles which can be found on, or just under, the surface of the sand and mud throughout the extensive “mud flat” portions of the beach. So if you are a big shellfish fan, this is a good place to fish.
I used a shovel to dig into the sand and gravel as the clams hide in the ground when the tide is low. You will often find water pool like the one above. Be warned, little kids love these muddy water holes! E2 was soaking wet in mud after he held his friend’s hand and jumped from hole to hole like playing hopscotch! Well, that was fun, I presumed.
Clams are collected in buckets and you can take the shells with you. There is a limit of 40 clams per person. If you are a family of five like us, you can take home 200 clams. Don’t overfish though. Rangers are on site to make sure that recreational fisher fish within the state limits.
On Saturday, the lowest tide was at 1.30pm. You can check the tides of the beach here. We stayed till about 3.30pm before heading home for a wholesome seafood feast with our friends. You should also be aware of the ferry schedule in order to go home before dark.
We went with a group of friends and had a little cook-out at a friend’s house.
Doesn’t that look so yummy? Fresh caught little necks clams with white wine pasta. Yum yum!
And that’s Daddy making yummy oyster omelette for supper! The oysters are really fresh, but I had to clean it very thoroughly to remove all sand.
If you are now very excited to go on your own fishing trip, you would be happy to know that the Wolfe Property State Park shellfishing season is open till May 15th, 2017. And there is a good low tide timing during the Mother’s Day weekend.
Let us know if you have a good catch!