Oyster season is off to a slow start, but with cold weather’s arrival, the peak of the season is still to come.


Oyster season is off to a slow start, but with cold weather’s arrival, the peak of the season is still to come.



At Clyde Phillips Seafood in Swansboro, the early harvest has yielded good quality oysters though the season is still a little sluggish.



“We’re seeing some pretty nice oysters, quality and size-wise ... but there are not a lot of people oystering right now,” said Larry Reeves as he worked at the market this week.



Give it a few weeks and he expects the season to pick up.



“By the latter part of November we should be cranking up,” he said.



The oyster season in North Carolina opened Oct. 15 and typically peaks around December and January as the water temperatures cool and conditions are more favorable for the growth of the oysters.



Stephen Taylor, a shellfish biologist with N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, said it may be too soon to predict the remainder of the season.



He said the wet and rainy spring could have curtailed some growth but this weekend is the first real cold spell the area has seen. As the weather cools, he said, oysters will turn their energy into growth.



“It has been a little slow but it’s too early for me to really call (the outcome of the season),” Taylor said.



Taylor said it’s not unusual for seasons to get off to a slow start and turn out to be a bountiful one.



Further south, Grant’s Oyster House in Sneads Ferry said the early indications haven’t been good.



Iola Brown, an employee at the oyster house, said the rain that preceded the season and weather conditions have been a factor.



She said fishermen have had to work multiple areas to find oysters, and cloudy waters can make it difficult to see the bottom.



They get many of their oysters from fishermen working the New River, where only hand harvest is allowed and commercial license holders can take up to 5 bushels of oysters per day.



“A lot (of fishermen) are getting here with two bushels, three bushels, maybe four. It’s rare for them to come in with five,” she said.



But the demand is still there.



“We have callers every day,” Brown said.



At T&W Oyster Bar on N.C. 58 in western Carteret County outside of Peletier, the oyster season draws many customers anxious for local oysters.



Owner Earl Taylor said he gets most of his oysters from the Newport River area and there have been some large ones seen there and around Pamlico Sound.



But weather has had an impact early in the season due to rain over the spring and summer months and resulting stormwater runoff that leads to closures of shellfish harvest areas.



Taylor said they’ve recently had to use a supplier they used back during the red tide in the 1980s.



“We’ve been getting some beautiful oysters out of Maryland and that’s who we are relying on right now,” he said.



Taylor said remains optimistic about the season ahead as more fishermen are able to turn their focus to the oyster harvest.



And as long as they bring in the local oysters, they’ll use all they can.



“If we can get good local oysters, that’s what we want,” he said.