October marks the start of the Chesapeake Bay oyster season on the Maryland end of the bay. The six-month season goes through the end of March. So oyster up, people!

The OysterGuide.com says the Chesapeake Bay used to be the Napa Valley of oysters but now most are farm-raised in the bay. Many are, that’s true. But the guide also says most of the good oysters come from Virginia. Well, most Chesapeake Bay oysters are raised in Virginia, but how good they depend on the waterman your restaurant buys from.

Like a fine wine, you’ll find a range — from sweet (mild) to briny (salty) — throughout the Chesapeake. Maryland is tougher on harvesting limits than Virginia though, so Maryland oysters are to be savored and enjoyed fully.

Oyster tonging
Oyster tonging (Photo courtesy Maryland Department of Natural Resources)

Maryland’s watermen harvested a total of 383,090 bushels of oysters last season, a little less than the 393,588 bushels with a dockside value of $17.3 million in 2014-2015. That was the second-highest total in at least 15 years.

The 2015 Fall Oyster Survey indicates an average-to-declining oyster harvest this season which may cause prices to rise a bit.

Oystering back in the day

Oyster may be a bit more expensive in October and will likely go down starting in November. For the first month of Maryland’s season, only hand tonging, patent tonging, and diving is permitted. Power and sail dredging begin on November 1, when harvest activity rises dramatically.

If you travel to the communities around the Chesapeake Bay, you can often find the happy hour and other specials where the oysters are $1-$2 each. Keep an eye out for oyster festivals and you’ll find all-you-can-eat oysters in the $35-$40 range, And that usually includes crackers and coleslaw!

One of the many Chesapeake Bay oyster fests in the Fall and Spring

Homemade cakes and pies are typically extra, but hey, where are you gonna find that deal in the city?