Saturday, May 18, 2024


Oysters Anyone?


Mark Yuasa, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the former longtime outdoors columnist for the Seattle Times, chatted with me this week about oysters and why right now may be the best time to harvest them in Washington State.

According to Yuasa, who has harvested more than his share of oysters over the years, the reason why spring is a great time to harvest oysters is because the low tides switch back to daylight hours and you don’t have to go out there with a flashlight or headlamp.  Second, the oysters are in rich, prime condition in the cold-water temperatures found in places like Hood Canal this time of year. Once the waters warm up the oysters use a lot of energy resources to go into their spawning period and the quality of the meat simply isn’t as good as it is right now. Finally, the beaches are less crowded this time of year than they are during the summer months which makes for a more enjoyable outing.


You can gather up to 18 oysters a day. They have to measure at least 2 ½ inches long (measured across the longest distance of the shell) and yes, the oysters you eat on the beach do count as part of your daily limit. Each harvester has to have their own container for their own individual catch.

You can only harvest oysters by hand or with a manually operated, hand held prying tool such as an oyster knife. Do not use hammers to break apart the oyster shell. Oyster seasons are not uniform from beach to beach. You can find this year’s seasons at this link, You’ll also want to check the Department of Health’s Biotoxin Status web page to make sure shellfish are safe to eat at the beach you want to go to. That link can be found at

Finally, the oysters you harvest must be shucked on the beach and the shells should be left on the same tideland and at the same tide height where they were taken.


I asked Mark Yuasa about this oyster shucking rule. He explained there are several reasons for this rule. First, it prevents the spread of invasive species and diseases from one location to another. One such species is the Japanese oyster drill. It is a hitchhiker on shells and can be spread to other oyster beds easily if you take a shell carrying this species and discard it on another beach.

Another reason to leave the oyster shells on the beach in the area you found them in is because small juvenile oysters may well be growing on the oyster you just shucked and leaving the shell high and dry above the high tide line kills those juvenile oysters.


If you are looking for places to go harvest oysters the place to start is Hood Canal. Twanoh State Park, north of Union, has beaches on both sides of the boat ramp and is open year around. Yuasa also recommends the Lilliwaup State Park Tidelands which are open all year not only for oysters, but for bay clams too. Eagle Creek north of Lilliwaup off of US Highway 101 is also open all year long. The beach here is accessed by a short, steep hike from the parking area. If you are looking for an easy to access beach for those with limited mobility, try the Triton Cove Tidelands, also located off of Highway 101. Yet another option is Potlach State Park, north of Shelton, which is open for oyster harvesting until May 31.


Asked how he likes to eat his oysters, Yuasa replied with a laugh, “I like to eat them freshly shucked with a hint of Tobasco sauce and a squeeze of lemon.” Yuasa said he also likes them deep fried in Panko batter served with a side of tartar sauce.

As for me, the best oysters I ever ate were served off the grill by my best friend (at his own wedding no less). The grilled oysters also had a dash of Tobasco sauce and parmesan cheese.

If you want more information about harvesting oysters in the greater Puget Sound Region check out the lengthy blog on the subject at

John Kruse – and



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