Finally, the invention we near the ocean have all been waiting for……………the oyster catcher.
For those of you unfamiliar with oysters and their habits the impact of this contraption will probably not be too profound. Oysters can only be harvested without too much concern for paralytic shellfish poisoning in the colder time of year locally. Regardless of the time of year however Fisheries should always be consulted to confirm whether it is safe or not to eat the sumptuous little fellows.
The oysters are not stupid. They time their edibility to jive with the annual tides a lot of the time. In the summer when it is too warm to safely consume them they mockingly make themselves available mid-day for any casual beachcomber to pick with impunity. The winter however presents an entirely different situation. Come January these little babies have firmed up nicely and are full of flavor but they are under a good head of water at the mid-day prime picking time. You’ll do just fine if you are of the nocturnal ilk…..just head out with a flashlight and they will pretty much jump into your waiting bucket.
So….mid-day. The picture below is probably the best way to get a grasp on what exactly an oyster catcher is. Essentially it is a spring loaded claw defaulting to the closed position mounted on the end of a long rod.
You will need a boat or anything that floats with you on or in it and a means of propelling it. Thusly supplied, and with the oyster catcher in hand and a bucket to keep your prizes in, any convenient time is fair game for an oyster safari.
A good idea is to try out the catcher before you get on the water so you know instinctively how its going to react to your manipulations. Once in the boat there are a few extra complications to deal with like your balance while you are doing the catching and the refraction of the water and of course the speed of the oyster. These suckers are fast so it will take some time to perfect your technique.
Try to pick a windless day as having no ripples on the water allows an unfettered view to the depths below and the elusive bounty lying unsuspectingly on the bottom. Make sure you are wearing a life jacket even though it is fairly shallow as an unexpected dunk in the cold water can tire you out in a very short time, severley limiting the abilities of even the most accomplished swimmer. Non-slip footwear is a good idea as well as often out of necessity you may have to make some awkward lunges to thwart the efforts of a quick witted oyster. So don’t scrimp here. Buy real oyster catching shoes. They aren’t that expensive and are available at most hardware stores.
Properly armed and clad now and having practised on dry land with the catcher, you are ready for your adventure into oyster catching.
I should mention something about oyster beds. They,like many of our marine friends, are being decimated by over zealous picking and environmental ignorance so treat their numbers with respect and only keep what you can eat at one sitting. Better still……catch and release ……and please….no trophy picking.
You will probably find it challenging at first to find a bed but ask around at marine supply stores or fishing outlets and they MAY inform you. Oyster catchers can be somewhat secretive and like any self respecting fly fisher, will often respond to queries about their location in very vague terms……watch their eyes…if they look up to the right they are thinking up a story, if they look down…its an out and out lie. You want a straight on “look me in the eye” and you know you’re getting the straight goods.
So assuming you have managed to wade through the preceeding mire ok you should be hovering over your prey and waiting for your shot at an oyster. Looking down from your perch in the boat or what ever you happen to be in or on, pick one oyster as your target and slowly lower the OYSTER CATCHER with the “jaws” in the open position,into the water in the direction of your prey. Simply cover two sides of the oyster with open jaws and release the catch on the handle and voila!…..the world is your oyster.