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Dredging for oysters can be an enjoyable form of aquatic recreation. Once harvested, oysters are quick and easy to prepare for consumption. But dredging for oysters with the intent of a high-volume harvest is an occupation best left to professionals. The practice requires advanced navigation skills, a high-powered boat capable of venturing safely onto shallow sea coasts, and a strong dredging apparatus capable of “raking” oyster without anchoring the boat to the ocean floor, or snapping and sinking under the weight of the debris dredged up and harvested. Multiple trial-and-error instances both in construction and application may be required to achieve desired results.
Sturdy, seaworthy, shallow-bottomed fishing vessel
Heavy-duty (manual or motorized) winch and heavy-duty, water-resistant cable
Welding equipment/capability and/or heavy-duty stainless steel attachment devices (nuts, bolts, etc.)
Commercial grade rake
Two rake-length metal stabilizing bars
Rope or chain metal gathering basket
Choose netting appropriate to the size of oysters. Oysters and the debris they are affixed to vary widely in size.
Dredging cords can snap or snag, causing personal and property injury risks. Ensure that the oyster bed you plan to dredge is approved by local authorities for “sport” harvesting purposes. Keep aware of water quality notices to ensure the oysters are safe to eat.
Oysters do not swim; they cling to sediment formations on the seafloor. Rakes and nets dragged near the surface of the water will not help to harvest them. Select drag line long enough for the dredging conditions applicable, and strong enough to tow your dredging apparatus as well as cleave oysters from the sea floor. Apply guidance from local conservancies, expert navigators, sonar equipment, or printed depth charts to determine the length of tow rope recommended.
Secure your winch to a solid boat surface. Winches can bolted to the deck of the boat, or hung from support beams attached to the side(s) of the boat.
Firmly affix one stabilizing “guide” bar to the top (nondredging end) of the net; preferably with U-bolts for strength and flexibility. Loop U-bolts through the netting and over the bar, then secure with locking nuts.
Firmly attach one stabilizing bar to both the bottom (dredging end) of the net and the top (nondredging edge) of the “rake”, with the gathering tines of the rake facing away from the net opening. Loop U-bolts through the netting and over the bar, then secure with locking nuts.
Use a rope or cable clamp to connect the trailing end of the dredge cord to the raking apparatus securely. Finally, tie and wind the lead end of the dredge cord to the winch before lowering the apparatus into the water.
Items you will need
- Dredging cords can snap or snag, causing personal and property injury risks.
- Ensure that the oyster bed you plan to dredge is approved by local authorities for “sport” harvesting purposes.
- Keep aware of water quality notices to ensure the oysters are safe to eat.
A. Scott Walton began his journalism career in 1985 at the "Nashville Tennessean." His reports have extended to radio, television and the Web and he has written extensively for the "Detroit Free Press," the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," the "Atlanta Voice" and many other publications. Walton holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Vanderbilt University.