Harvest Your Own Oysters at Brays Island
Thinking about adding oysters to your dinner menu but don’t want to drive to the local seafood market? Just grab a bucket and some heavy gloves because you can harvest your own bushel of these tasty morsels right on Brays Island.
The Plantation’s on-site naturalist Bruce Lampright says the oyster beds near Brays Island are excellent for harvesting. Plus, you won’t run into much competition when on the hunt: “Being at the upper end of the Port Royal Sound, there are no commercial beds in the area,” Bruce says. “Most of the commercial harvesting is done at the other end.”
Additionally, the pristine waters at Brays Island Plantation mean there’s no need to worry about consuming contaminated shellfish.
Oysters from the Plantation range in size. “Most of our harvestable oysters are about three years old,” Bruce says. “The biggest ones at Brays Island are sub-tidal, which means they are covered with water all the time. They grow larger because they feed around the clock.”
The smaller oysters, sometimes called raccoon oysters, are found farther up on the beach between the high and low tide marsh. These inter-tidal oysters, which are uncovered twice a day, can’t filter feed constantly, so they don’t grow as fast. They tend to be longer and more narrow, but still good quality. When you taste a South Carolina oyster for the first time, Bruce thinks you may decide that Lowcountry shellfish is better than the rest: “Many people, myself included, think that our local South Carolina oysters are some of the best because of the higher salinity levels found here.”
Bruce has tried oysters from all along the East and West Coasts, and he holds firmly that oysters from Brays Island Plantation taste the best because of the good water quality and salinity.
When you’re ready to go oyster hunting at Brays Island, make sure you have a current saltwater fishing license on hand, and be aware of the limits when harvesting. In South Carolina, a person may harvest two bushels per day, up to two days a week from October 1 through May 15. Happy harvesting!
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources encourages oyster consumers to recycle oyster shells at local drop sites. Those shells are then returned to the estuary to provide a suitable surface to attract juvenile oysters. Call (843) 953-9397 to find convenient locations where shells can be dropped-off for recycling.