I’m sure most of us can agree; keeping your eyes on the prize is a respectable notion. But when it comes to fly-fishing, sometimes knowing when to shift gears can be equally as important. We’ve all been there. For some reason or another, the target species isn’t cooperating and you’re forced to make a game-time decision. Keep grinding despite stacked odds, or set your sights on a more attainable goal? However you look at it, there are some options. I’m here to advocate for one option in particular – the shellfish side mission.

fishing flyfishing oyster bar
Side mission territory. Photo: Chasing Tides Collective (@chasingtidesco)

While on the hunt for stripers, specks, reds, or any number of inshore species, two main things are on my mind – clean water & structure. Lucky for me (and virtually the whole damn ecosystem), oysters provide both. Oysters are a keystone species, which means they play a vital role in keeping various ecosystems in check. They filter an astonishing amount of water and provide excellent habitat for a variety of marine animals. As if that wasn’t enough, they also happen to be one of the most delicious bivalves on the planet.

oyster food fishing shuck
Making quick work of a fresh one. Photo: Kirk Marks (@kirkymarks)

Reinventing the wheel is not my intention here. Rather, this article serves as a personal take on a few classic recipes; oysters Rockefeller, fried oysters, and oysters on the half shell. But before we get to those, let’s take a gander at some interesting facts from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that’ll make you want an oyster tattoo as much as I do:

  1. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water daily. That’s approximately the same amount of water used in a 10 minute shower.

  2. Oysters can change their sex. In fact, they will often do it more than once.

  3. An oyster becomes an adult when it turns one year old and can live as long as 20 years.

  4. Juvenile oysters are called spat.

  5. As oyster generations settle on one another and grow, they form reefs that provide shelter for other animals, like fish and crabs.

  6. Oyster shells can be recycled to help grow spat and establish new reefs.

oyster, bars, tide, low tide
An oyster bar becomes visible as the tide falls. Photos: Kirk Marks (@kirkymarks)

Yup, oysters are pretty much magic. Before you go rooting around for your next meal, please review your local recreational harvest laws. Truth be told, shellfish regulations can be tricky. Often there are specified seasons, size limits, creel limits, and means of take, as well as restricted areas, off-limit sanctuaries, and additional regionally specific regulations. Let’s all do our part in respecting the resource and harvesting sustainably.

fish, trout, specklled, fishing
Speckled trout, sometimes called “yellow mouths,” can often be caught near oyster bars. Photo: Kirk Marks (@kirkymarks)

Until next time, enjoy and good luck out there!

Ingredient quantities and ratios will vary depending on the amount of oysters, size of oysters, and personal taste. The ingredient list is intended to serve as a guide, not an exact formula. Use your best judgment.

Oysters Rockefeller Recipe:

  • Oysters, shucked on the half shell
  • Bacon, cut into 1.5 inch squares
  • Spinach, fresh or frozen
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Fresh garlic, minced
  1. Pre-heat oven to 300.
  2. Lay oysters on a baking sheet. Keep as much liquor in the shell as possible.
  3. Layer spinach, minced garlic, cheddar cheese, and bacon (in that order) on-top of the oyster.
  4. Place oysters in the oven for approximately 10-12 minutes.
  5. Remove oysters from the oven. Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
  6. Broil the oysters for an additional 3-5 minutes, then remove. Serve immediately.
oysters cooking oven rockefeller
Oysters Rockefeller, just after broiling. Photo: Kirk Marks (@kirkymarks)

Fried Oysters Recipe:

  • Oysters, shucked (these ratios are for 1 pint of oysters – scale your mix accordingly)
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1.5 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
  • Mild frying oil (vegetable, canola, peanut, etc.)
  • Cocktail sauce, for dipping (optional)
  • Hot sauce, for dipping (optional)
  1. Combine flour, corn starch, and Old Bay Seasoning in a bowl. Dredge oysters in the mix.
  2. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or pan to 350. Flash fry oysters until they are golden brown.
  3. Serve immediately. Dip in cocktail sauce or hot sauce if you’d like.
Heating some oil in the waterfowl blind. Photo: Kirk Marks (@kirkymarks)

Oysters on the Half Shell (Raw) Recipe:

  • Oysters, shucked on the half shell
  • Cocktail sauce (optional)
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • Horseradish (optional)
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  1. Throw some toppings on if you’d like, then down the hatch. Personally, I like a dollop of cocktail sauce, a squeeze of lemon, and a couple drops of hot sauce. It doesn’t get much simpler.
fishing, beer, fly fishing
En route to the (oyster) bar. Photo: Kirk Marks (@kirkymarks)

Article by Flylords Food Editor Kirk Marks, an angler, photographer, and culinary aficionado based in Kent Island, Maryland. Give him a follow at @kirkymarks. 

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