Coastal South Carolina Oyster Season

Oyster lovers, your favorite season of the year is here. For those looking for fresh oysters, or do-it-yourself harvesting, we have provided a breakdown of what you need to know about South Carolina’s 2020-2021 Oyster Season.

Featured below are some of the best local events and restaurants where oysters are the main attraction. We’ve also included information about harvesting them yourself, for the true oyster connoisseur who wants to enjoy the total experience – from start to finish.

EVENTS

Please note that this list of area events is not all-inclusive, and users of this Website are responsible for independently verifying all information. Traditionally, the events featured below have occurred within the month noted, however, dates, venue, and other details can change at short notice. Please check all information on the event’s official Website before making plans to attend. 

January 2021

(Mt. Pleasant) Lowcountry Oyster Festival, January 31, 2021

This annual event at Boone Hall Plantation is considered the largest oyster festival in the world, with shucking and eating contests, live music, children’s activities, and other entertainment. $25 per person, or $17.50 in advance; food and drink purchased separately. Click here for more information.

(Folly Beach) Oyster Roast at Bowen’s Island, 2021 event to be confirmed

Oyster roast to benefit the preservation of the Morris Island Lighthouse. Ticket purchase required. Click here for more information.

(Mt. Pleasant) Oysters on the Point, 2021 event to be confirmed

Recurring monthly winter oyster and music event at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. Tickets $7, or $5 in advance. Click here for more information.

(Mt. Pleasant) Oyster Roast for Sea Turtles, 2021 event to be confirmed

Oyster roast at Coastal Expeditions to benefit the Sea Turtle Program at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Click here for more information.

(Mt. Pleasant) East Cooper Meals on Wheels Oyster Roast, 2021 event to be confirmed

Annual oyster roast at Palmetto Islands County Park, Mount Pleasant, with oysters and barbecue, live music, and children’s activities. Adults $35, children $10 (food included). Benefits East Cooper Meals on Wheels, which provides free meals to home-bound or vulnerable residents of East Cooper. Click here for more information.

February 2021

(Murrells Inlet) Oyster Roast & Bloody Mary Challenge, 2021 event to be confirmed

All-you-can-eat oyster roast at The Wicked Tuna, Murrells Inlet, with oysters, food, and drink, bloody Mary contest, live music, and more. $30 per person or $25 in advance, to benefit the Rape Crisis Center serving Horry and Georgetown Counties. Click here for more information.

(Murrells Inlet) Grand Strand Young Professionals Oyster Roast, 2021 event to be confirmed

Oyster roast with live music. Click here for more information.

November 2021

(Murrells Inlet) Murrells Inlet 2020 Annual Oyster Roast, 2021 event to be confirmed

All-you-can-eat oyster roast at Murrells Inlet. Click here for details.

RECREATIONAL HARVESTING

Want to try and harvest fresh oysters yourself? Here are some things you’ll want to know before you go sloshing around the pluff mud in search of these delectable bivalves. 

According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, oyster season in South Carolina is October 1 through May 15, unless conditions warrant the shortening or lengthening of the season. 

The South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) may temporarily close shellfish reefs after a hurricane, major rain event, or pollution spill. It is important for harvesters to check with DHEC to verify whether any closures are in effect.

The best time to harvest oysters is during the day at low tide. This makes the oyster reefs (beds) easier to find. Be sure to pay attention to the tide, so you do not get trapped as the water starts to come back in. 

Check Your Maps

Maps of designated harvest areas may be downloaded from the SCDNR website or accessed online through the Recreational Map Web Application. For a printed may, please call 843-953-9854. When requesting maps, please specify the general area where you wish to harvest.

Know the Laws

Recreational harvesting requires a South Carolina Saltwater Fishing License

Recreational harvesters are limited to two calendar days within a seven-day period, and there is a limit of three personal limits per boat of vehicle. A person is permitted to harvest two U.S. bushels of oysters in any one day. A five-gallon bucket will hold approximately a half bushel of oysters. 

It is illegal to harvest shellfish between a half hour after sunset and a half hour before sunrise. 

Have the Right Gear

Because oyster shells are sharp, rubber boots or thick-soled shoes are a must for safety. And, since oysters must be harvested by hand, wear appropriate gloves. 

Bring an implement you can use to break single oysters away from clusters within the bed. Look for oysters at least three-inches or larger. You’ll want to leave the baby oysters in place. 

Bring a bucket, wire basket, or mesh sack to hold your harvest. 

Preparing your Oysters

Once you get home, rise your oysters with fresh water to remove the mud. Set aside broken shells or shells that don’t close when you tap them. It’s best to eat them right away, but you can store them in your refrigerator in a closed container or sealed plastic bag at temperatures around 35° F for about one-to-two weeks. 

Shucked oysters should be light grey in color with clear liquid. If you store shucked oysters in their own liquid packed on ice in a refrigerator, they will last for about a week.

Recycle the Shells

To manage oyster grounds and create new oyster bed habitats, oyster shells are collected and reused. For information about oyster shell recycling or to find the nearest oyster shell recycling drop off call 843-953-9841, Email oystershellrecycling@dnr.sc.gov, or visit Oyster Shell Recycling

For more information about oyster harvesting, please visit https://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/shellfish/regs.html.

RESTAURANTS

Looking to dine out and enjoy fresh oysters in the Murrells Inlet area? Well, you’re in luck. There are a multitude of restaurants on the Grand Strand with a variety of ways to enjoy the classic dish such as raw, steamed, fried, or Oyster Rockefeller. With so many places to choose from, we provided a list of four popular restaurants loved by locals. 

Have someone in your party who isn’t a fan of oysters or seafood? Don’t fret, these restaurants have a variety of options to choose from to cater to seafood lovers, steak fanatics, and more.

Wahoo’s Fish House

3993 US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Hours: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday , 4 p.m. -10 p.m. Friday through Saturday

Phone: (843) 651-5800

Graham’s Landing

5225 US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Hours: 11:30 a.m. – Closing time varies – Call to confirm hours

Phone: (843) 947-0520

Nance’s Creek Front

4883 US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Hours: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday – Closed Monday

Phone: (843) 651-2696

Hot Fish Club

4911 US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Hours: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday

Phone: (843) 357-9175

SEAFOOD MARKETS

Murrells Inlet Seafood

4886 South, US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Hours: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. – Seven Days a Week

Phone: (843) 651-9309

Harrelson’s Seafood Market

4368 US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Hours: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Seven Days a Week

Phone: (843) 651-5707

Seven Seas Seafood Market

3476 US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Hours: 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Seven Days a Week

Phone: (843) 651-1666

Inlet Seafood Market & Produce

3453 US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Seven Days a Week

Phone: (843) 357-3474

SHOULD I ONLY EAT OYSTERS IN MONTHS WITH THE LETTER “R”?

Tradition dictates that you can only eat oysters from September through April – the months containing the letter “r”. The idea probably comes from the fact that summer months are prime breeding time for large blooms of algae, or “red tides”, that grow along the coast. This algae can spread toxins within the water that can be absorbed by shellfish, including oysters. This is especially true for places with warm water temperatures, Eating locally-harvested seafood during the summer months can increase your risk of ingesting these toxins.

However, the majority of seafood sold in restaurants and supermarkets is commercial. Commercially harvested seafood is strictly regulated by U.S. laws to ensure it is safe to consume. Many restaurants serve commercial oysters from cold-water climates during the months of May, June, July, and August to ensure their safety net with consumers. If it’s not noted on the menu, you can always ask where the seafood is sourced.

Taking a break from local harvesting also gives the oyster beds time to grow and replenish. In South Carolina, most oyster spawning occurs from April to October when water temperatures reach 70° F. The summer months are the most active, so it only makes sense to give the oysters a little privacy. After about three weeks, the larvae settle on the bottom in search of a hard, clean surface, often other oyster shells, for permanent attachment. This is why recycling oyster shells is important. It takes three-to-four years for an oyster to mature to harvest size – about three-inches.

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