Gone Oystering

Experience an oyster harvest for yourself.

Captain William Saunders on board the Miss Nicole near Irvington.

Photo courtesy of Tides Inn Oyster Academy

Like apples? Come fall, you can generally find a “pick your own” orchard. Same goes for most seasonal fruits. But oysters are different; many of us don’t know what it takes to get them to our tables. 

“Most people have some understanding of the Chesapeake Bay, but they are new to oysters,” says Trey Sowers, owner of Chapel Creek Oyster Company in Mathews County and captain of a 34-foot Chesapeake deadrise. He is one of a dozen watermen from all around the Bay involved in the Virginia Watermen’s Heritage Tours program. Implemented in 2015 by the Virginia Waterman’s Association and its partners—Rappahannock Community College (RCC), Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Sea Grant and Chesapeake Environmental Communications (CEC)—the heritage tours connect the curious with working watermen who welcome them on their boats to see first hand how oysters grow and are harvested. “It gives them a better understanding of where their food is coming from and all the good things oysters do for the Bay,” explains Sowers.

Captain J.C. Hudgins, a commercial crabber and oysterman who offers tours out of Morris Creek near Gwynn’s Island, says the program has been a great way to show people what it takes to bring seafood from the water to the table. $100 per hour for up to six people. To schedule a tour, go to WatermenTours.com


This article originally appeared in our Smoke & Salt 2018 issue.

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