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Awe, shucks

Venture to the nearest sandy beach for shellfish fresh from the ocean

Revel in the beauty while oyster harvesting at local beaches like Dash Point and beyond. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

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There is a glimmer of the quintessential Pacific Northwesterner that you catch a peek of when basking in the glory of our great outdoors. Western Washington boasts a diversity of landscapes from mossy forest floors, majestic mountains and calm ocean waves. This equates to a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy, many of which result in a self-foraged meal on the dinner table. You can literally jump in your car and drive for less than an hour and find a beach near you to get to ... oyster harvesting, that is.

Oysters are tasty morsels from the sea that can be enjoyed battered and fried or raw with a squeeze of citrus. You'll want to be careful not to overcook them, otherwise they lose their flavor and become rubbery in texture.

Where to go: Public beaches can be found throughout Western Washington. You can make a weekend out of it with a trip to the San Juan Islands, or hop in the car and visit beaches throughout Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston and King Counties.

What you need to know: Just like hunting, there are legal harvesting seasons in regard to clam digging and oyster hunting. Though some beaches and some shellfish (oysters) allow for a year-long season, not all do. Do your homework. Also, low tide is the time to go, and autumn weather is your friend. When you feel that chill in the salty breeze, oysters are nearing their peak condition -- typically winter and spring. It's important to check with the Department of Health before hitting the road. Shellfish are sensitive to soil contaminants and bacteria. These toxins can lead to sickness or even death, hardly worth the po'boy you just devoured. Also, unlike clams, oysters need to be shucked onsite, and shells should be discarded in the area and tide level where harvested. This is vital to the conservation of the species as the best setting for growing young oysters are Pacific oyster shells.

What you'll need: Tools are handy to bring along. There's no need to seek an oyster digging kit for your expedition; many items are things you already have. You'll need a rake for knocking oysters from the reef.  Also, bring a small but sturdy knife for shucking and thick gloves to protect your hands from both the rough shells and sharp tools. A plastic bag is handy for storing the oysters, as is a bucket of ice to keep them fresh during transport.  Secondly, to be legit in Washington State, you'll need a license to take those delectable little friends home. The cost is minimal at a measly $10 on average, and it will prevent you from being fined if you get caught without one when bringing your haul home.

A useful link to check out more in-depth details, open beach season and availability is Keep up on current shellfish safety at

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