On brisk fall and winter mornings when the oyster beds are open, you can bundle up in several layers, pull on your waders or your high rubber boots and a pair of Neoprene gloves (both of these are essential for cool season shellfishing and can be bought at several of the local shellfishing supply stores listed at the end of this article) and head out for one of God’s greatest gifts—Cape Cod oysters.
I have gone oystering on cold winter mornings in West Barnstable and Osterville. Last November, my son and I arrived at the flats off Scudder Lane as the sun rose over Cape Cod Bay. The golden and rose-colored light glistened on literally thousands of oysters on the flats, treasure for the taking.
It was 40 degrees out and our fingers—even with wool gloves encased in Neoprene—were soon stiff from the cold. We endured, though, and gathered our allotted bushel (every Cape town has their own limitations on how many oysters or clams you can harvest), carefully checked the size of each with our gauge (oysters must be three inches or more for harvesting), and headed home.
The next day was Thanksgiving at my mother’s house and those oysters were savored down to the last morsel. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
Since we live in the mid-Cape area, my recreational shellfishing license can be used in designated areas in Barnstable’s seven towns. I shellfish mostly in Barnstable, West Barnstable, and Osterville. Some day I would love to shellfish in Dennis, Provincetown, and Wellfeet. Lots of oyster lovers contend that Wellfleet’s oysters are the sweetest—I can’t imagine anything sweeter than a West Barnstable oyster, but I’d love to give it a try.
Residents of Cape Cod towns from Bourne to Provincetown can get a shellfishing license for varying prices from around $20 to $40. All you have to do is head to your Natural Resources office or Town Hall and prove your residency. You can also buy the small rectangular shellfishing gauge at most offices. Wherever you dig, you MUST have your license with you and it is a good idea to always have your gauge on hand. Most towns have non-resident and seasonal licenses available as well for higher fees.