Gulf Coast Oyster Harvest Makes a Healthy Return to Fulton Harbor

Submitted by rudyarispe on December 16, 2020 - 2:40pm
Oyster boats in Fulton, Texas

Fulton, TX --Oysters aren’t for everybody. But oyster lovers love oysters. It’s a time of celebration at Fulton Harbor in Fulton, Texas. Boats are starting to travel in and out of the retail markets.

Watching an oyster boat come in with its harvest is a show indeed. You can see them come in with their catch from Fulton Harbor most days around 4-5 p.m. now until April 30 during the height of oyster season. If you want a front row seat, you can see them dock from a few of the local eateries or pubs along the water.

The harvest is a bit simple. Oyster harvesters come from Texas and Louisiana. There are more than 100 oyster boats harvesting in the local bays throughout the season. Oyster boats must monitor which bays are open and closed. Opening and closing of bays fluctuates according to Texas Parks and Wildlife rules and regulations.  

Interesting facts about harvesting oysters: 

  • Oysters must be 3 inches or larger as measured by the greatest length of the shell
  • No more than 2 sacks of legal oysters may be possessed per person.
  • An oyster sack is defined as 110 pounds of oysters including dead oyster shell and the sack.
  • Oysters may be taken by hand, with tongs or by oyster dredges not more than 14 inches in width
  • Oyster season is Monday–Saturday November 1 through April 30, sunrise to 3:30 p.m., coast wide
  • Oysters may be taken for personal use (food) with a recreational license but may not be sold
  • A person taking Oysters must have a valid fishing license and a saltwater endorsement.
  • A vessel used while engaged in fishing with tongs or a dredge requires the purchase of an additional Sport Oyster Boat commercial fishing license.

The principal gear used in harvesting is the oyster dredge, essentially a basket attached to a toothed bar. When dragged by an oyster boat over a reef, oysters are scraped off the bottom by the bar and caught in the basket. The dredge periodically is hauled aboard and the catch dumped on the deck. Small oysters and shells are culled from the market oysters and discarded or thrown overboard. Culling means

The Gulf Coast oyster is one of the most sought-after coastal mollusks. Not only do people enjoy eating them, live oyster reefs help clean the water and provide habitat for all sorts of other animals such as sponges, small crabs, and fishes.

The reefs in Little Bay located in Rockport held up really well through the storm, an abundance of rain and high tides. Researchers were recently holding their breath as samples were taken from Little Bay according to Aransas County Navigation District Harbormaster Keith Barrett. The samples were taken at 28 different locations. The results show oysters were quite large and plentiful. In their recent sampling, it showed there were 9.8 live oysters per square foot when the goal was 5 oysters per square foot.

Students and professors of Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi recently built a seawall of bricks of a few dozen yards from shore at Goose Island State Park. Volunteers bagged 40,000 pounds of cultch, or oyster shells to make the seawall. It basically will invite new life to feed, filter and proliferate. This program is part of a larger program called “Sink Your Shucks,” a program founded by Jennifer Pollack, Ph.D., who is studying and taking a closer look at Texas oysters.

Oysters will always be a food delicacy to those who love oysters. The oyster is one of those foods that can be fixed many different ways as long as you are on the coast. Whether chargrilled, fried, Rockefeller, or raw, many people who love oysters eagerly await oyster season and the opportunity to consume their share of this succulent treat.

The Rockport-Fulton area hits the peak of Oyster season with its popular and widely-known Fulton Oysterfest where you can participate in contests such as Oyster eating, Oyster shucking and Oyster decorating. This event is held March 4-7, 2021 at the Fulton Navigation Park but the harvest continues on through the end of April. For more information, visit Rockport-Fulton.org or call (361)-729-6445.

 

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