Katama Bay Oysters

Clams - The All Purpose Bivalve


Katama Bay OystersKatama Bay is on east side of the island of Marthas Vineyard, which is off the coast of Massachusetts, specifically the south coast of Cape Cod. It is an area I know well, and I have spent lots of time there eating seafood and fly fishing for striped bass and other fish, and often my friend Louie would go get shellfish licenses and harvest various shellfish.

Katama means “crab-fishing place” in the Wampanoag language of the original inhabitants, and Katama Bay is a seafood, including shellfish, rich bay. Think clams, oysters, scallops, squid, and more. It separates Chappaquiddick from the rest of Marthas Vineyard.

I remember fishing the bay one night with the boys for squid, which they intended to use as bait the next day. They went to bed, and I opened a bottle of Port and cleaned two 5 gallon buckets full of squid. Louie cooked the squid the following day, all day long, in probably 6 to 8 different ways and they were awesome!

During most of my time on the island, pre kids, the bay opened to the protected north, and Norton Point Beach which was a narrow piece of land, really a big sandbar, closed the southern side. When the ferry across Katama Bay was closed at night, you could drive in a 4 wheel drive across Norton Point, something and many other nocturnal fishermen did often. A big storm in the winter of 2006/2007 blew through Norton Point Beach and now water flows from both sides. No one knows how long both sides of the bay will be open, perhaps a long time, and similar events no doubt have naturally occurred many times over the history of Katama Bay. The oysters do not seem to mind.

In late 2013, 12 independent oyster farms existed in Katama Bay. In the summer tourist season it can be very hard to find them as demand far exceeds supply, but off season they are easier to find. For example in March 2014 I was able to buy them a few miles from my house in Newmarket NH, nowhere near The Vineyard.

Katama Bay Oysters ready to eat!The oysters grown and harvested in an environmentally sustainable method using racks and trays moored to the floor of the bay. The oysters never any contact with the floor of the bay.

The Oysters:

The Oysters are medium sized, with an excellent mouth feel. Sweet, I found them somewhat saline (others say they are very “intensely briny”), buttery, with a popcorn finish. They have a long, lingering, wild and wonderful aftertaste.

I love these!

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