November 3 2022

Oystering Cape Cod | How To Get Started

by Richard Banks

This article was originally published on November 13th, 2016. 

It was just a little past sunrise as I was standing in 53 degree water that was up to the top of my chest waders, with a strong wind blowing and rain starting to come down in a torrent.

I couldn’t help but ask myself why I was doing this! The answer to that very simple question was equally simple - fresh oysters.

People around the world pay good money for oysters from Cape Cod. The reason being  that the waters of the Cape provide a very good environment in which oysters thrive.

Oystering is something that you can do too.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of equipment, and in a short period of time you can get a bucket full that will make your friends both jealous and glad to know you - all at the same time.

So with that being said, why aren’t you out gathering up some of the greatest tasting oysters found anywhere in the world?

Perhaps you haven’t given it much thought; perhaps you don’t know what equipment you need; perhaps you don’t know that you can pretty much find oysters anywhere on the Cape.

Photo courtesy of Channel Rock Oyster Co.

The purpose then of this report is to share with you some insights about this fishery and to encourage you to get out and catch some these great tasting mollusks.

Whether you like them raw, grilled, fried or in a stew, I hope that the information provided here is of interest, value and benefit. 

Please scroll down to continue reading, or you can skip to a certain section by clicking the table of contents below. 👇

Shellfishing Rules & Regulations

Before you can eat them, you have to catch them, so let’s start with the basic rules and regulations of shell fishing on Cape Cod.

Click below to toggle some "must know" oystering rules & regulations:

Town-specific regulations

Shell fishing permits

Resident vs. non-resident permits

When you can go

Minimum size

Shellfishing Equipment

The next thing you need to have for getting oysters is some basic shellfishing equipment.

  • Chest waders

A good pair of chest waders is essential. Not only will they help keep you warm and dry, they will also help prevent clam itch, which can cause a poison ivy type rash on some people.

oystering on cape cod

Chest waders can also help get you into deeper water, ahead of others who might be sticking to the shallows. One time I got my limit very quickly out deep, while others in shallow didn’t get any.

  • Wet suit jackets and diving gloves

During the fall and winter I would suggest a wet suit jacket and a pair of diving gloves to help keep you dry and warm. With water temps in the 50s or lower, hypothermia could become a factor.

  • Floating baskets

A floating basket is good for stowing your oysters, along with a bucket that is measured for the limit you can keep. For example, I put a 5 quart pail inside my basket so I know when I am getting to my limit without any guess work.

Shellfishing Strategy

Some people use a glass bottom bucket to help them see the oysters, and then use a shelf grabber to pick them up in deeper water. 

I once saw someone using what appeared to be the bin from their refrigerator to spot the oysters, and also to carry them.

About the author 

Richard Banks

Richard Banks (aka "onemoretime") and his wife Kathleen are longtime members of My Fishing Cape Cod, as well as the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman's Alliance and the Nauset Newcomers. The duo enjoys living and fishing on Cape Cod, but they travel and fish around the world too.

  • Since this article was first published the state has passed special legislation for recreational shellfishing permits veterans. Commonwealth of Massachusetts veterans are entitled to resident permit rates for recreational shellfishing permits upon showing their Veteran’s ID card. This means that if you live anywhere in MA and are a Veteran you can go to a town like Brewster and get a shellfishing permit at the local resident rate.



    • John
      Thanks for the note..glad it reminded you about the season being open. I agree with you about how tempting it was to see the scallops swimming around when the season isn’t open. I have had to put quite a few scallops back because the season wasn’t open when I was in the water looking for quahogs. I hope to see you out there sometime as lots of towns are opening up their waters for shellfishing.
      Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Hey Richard, great post! I have been interested in harvesting my own shellfish for awhile, but I don’t live on Cape. Do you have any suggestions for towns that offer non-resident licenses?

    • Thanks for the note! Falmouth and Bourne both offer non-resident licenses as do Brewster and Dennis. You can google the town you are most interested in to find out if they offer one. Before you buy it be sure to check out what is open and when. Some towns don’t offer any shell fishing other than quahogs. Not bad but maybe the town next door offers, soft shells, sea clams and oysters. Also what days are they open. Some times may be open every day where some are open one or two days a week. That can make a big difference based on your travel schedule.

    • Although I come across them I have been clamming (and scallop season wasn’t open…I haven’t gone after them…yet…let me know if you have….. what pointers you have? Thanks for the is appreciated…

  • Great post!

    As a kid I would dig up large sea clams during the summer, but looking back I’m not sure if that was legal.

    Is there a specific season for sea clams in Cape Cod Bay?

    Thank you Richard!

    • Glad you liked the post. Regarding the recreational season for sea clams it depends on what town you are in. For example, if you are in Brewster it is open season right now any day of the week. In Dennis the season is also open, but areas where you can go will change in the Spring. Harwich is also open but you can only go on certain days depending on the month. So it is best to check in with the appropriate town official to determine what season is open and if there are any restrictions as to what day you can go shellfishing. Thanks again for the note.

    • Hello Csmith! Yes we do have some tips. Richard just sent me the following to share with you…


      Thanks for your note on My Fishing Cape Cod.

      Although I have not been oystering in Mashpee I did find the following

      Mashpee Shellfishing & Clamming
      Mashpee Town Hall, 16 Great Neck Road North
      Mashpee, MA
      Phone: 508-539-1439

      To shellfish in Mashpee you must have a Mashpee shellfish permit or Wampanoag Tribal ID card. You may buy a permit if you own land in Mashpee or live in Massachusetts.

      Permits are issued at the Town Clerk’s office in Town Hall, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 pm. and during the month of July on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

      Fees Family, $25; seniors, $6; non-resident, $80

      Hours: Non-commercial shellfishing is allowed every day between sunrise and sunset.

      Shellfishing Locations: Shellfishing is allowed up to the high tide shoreline, except in areas closed because of contamination or otherwise restricted by the Mashpee Shellfish Regulations.

      Areas reserved for non-commercial (family) shellfishing are in Waquoit Bay, Great River, Hamblin Pond and Popponesset Bay. Refer to the shellfishing maps for closed or restricted areas.

      Harvest of quahogs, soft-shell clams, scallops (in season), mussels and razor clams is allowed as specified in the regulations. The taking of oysters is prohibited until further notice. Catch limits are established for each harvestable species and can be found in the regulations. Shellfishing maps

      You can also check out the Mashpee website for more information at

      This is a map that shows where some of their shellfishing areas were. I am not certain as to how old the info is so please check with your town offices as to when beds are open and closed to the public.

      Thanks again for the comments.

      Best regards,


      • Dan Martin (another member of MFCC) also had this recommendation:

        “Mashpee neck….follow the road by that name to its south most point”

        That should help get you started. Gluck!

      • Hi, I’m in Dennisport. Why is this site only showing the Mashpee areas? I’d rather find an area down cape. Could you please suggest some locations for clamming, oystering etc? Mid cape area would be great.
        Thank you,
        Trina Payan

  • As an FYI, I went out and got some oysters from the Bay at the beginning of March. I enjoyed a few and put the rest in my refrigerator. Last night, on April 22 I popped a few open. They were all still full of juice and very flavorful. There were a couple that had opened up a little at the seam so I didn’t even try to open them. So I have had them in the frig for close to 8 weeks and no issues with freshness or flavor of the ones I ate. Hope this helps. Clamming should be starting in Yarmouth pretty soon and I will do a report on that in the near future as well as a report on my trip to Venice LA.. All my best to you and yours, Richard

  • Is there any town that rents or loans out the equipment to go oystering? A couple years ago my daughter and I did that clamming for the day and it was such a great experience.

    • Tammy
      You really don’t need much equipment to pick them off the rocks. A device to measure the oysters, some heavy duty gloves, a pail to put them in and a glove and knife to open them with. If you have the device for measuring clams it may also work for measuring the oysters.
      However, many towns do have equipment you can use. When you go on a town’s shell fishing website it should indicate whether or not equipment is available.
      I hope this helps.
      Best regards,

  • Hi Richard – When it works out with tides and times, I can combine clamming with fishing, especially if I’m geared up in waders etc, that way I’m guaranteed a “catch”.

    • Jane
      Excellent…often times I’m out there in a boulder field thinking this would be a great place for fishing. Next time I will go early and take the rod and reel.
      Thanks for sharing…hope to see you out there.
      Best regards,

  • Awesome post! Thanks for the input as this is an area that I have been eager to explore yet know very little about.

    • Gregory,
      Thanks for taking the time to read the post and to send along a comment. If you have any questions feel free to drop me a note or give me a call.
      Best regards,

  • Richard, thank you so much for posting this great information. I will definitely add this to my to-do activities this year.

    • Brian
      Thanks for reading the article and sending along a comment. I hope to write one about clamming on the Cape which is another fun thing to do. As oyster season is now open in towns around the area I look forward to hearing about your success.
      Best regards

  • Great article….I’ll be getting a shellfish license in Eastham this year. Salt Pond and Hemenway Landing seem like good places to start.

    I absolutely love Wellfleet oysters and agree on the brine only approach. Wonderful. Only thing that competes is kummamoto oysters on the west coast.

    • Thanks for the comments. Let me know when you get some Eastham Oysters and we can do a taste comparison.
      All my best

    • Sally,
      Thanks for reading the report and for the note and question.
      A couple of things,;
      Keep them in their shells
      Store them flat side up
      DO NOt store in a sealed bag or container
      Keep refrigerated until you are ready to shuck them
      Some suggest placing a water towel over them

      With all that..I picked up some oysters after a storm about a week before Thanksgiving. I served some to guests on the big day and kept the rest in the refrigerator until the 20th of December. I checked the shells to make sure they hadn’t opened up and and did not have a bad odor when opening. They were fine.

      The people who grow oysters will remove the oysters from the beds in winter and put them in cold storage until early spring when they get returned to the water. They don’t seem to have any issues with doing this.

      If you have shucked the oysters they should be eaten right away or cooked.

      Thanks again for taking the time to read the report.

      Best regards


    • Scott
      Thanks for taking the time to read the article and to send in a note. I hope to write something about clamming in the spring and hopefully you will enjoy that as well.

  • Richard, nice write up. I’ve been getting them basically year round (whe weather permits) here in Eastmam. When you can’t fish, you can Oyster.?

    • Don
      We should do a taste test comparison. I think it will be a tie. Looking forward to enjoying all the fishing on the Cape.
      All my best,

  • Nicely done, great post.

    I also like to snorkel for sea clams in Cape Cod Bay at low tide. I use a screw driver to pluck the sea clams from the sand. Simple stuff and a lot of fun.

    Sea clams are great stuffed with breadcrumbs in the shell, or in a chowder.

    • Ryan
      Thanks for the comment it is greatly appreciated. Perhaps one day we can get out together and get some sea clams. Thanks again for the amazing website and providing us an opportunity to share our fishing experiences.
      Best regards,

    • Emil,
      Thanks for the note and comment. I sent the phone number in a separate email and look forward to hearing from you.
      Happy New Year..

  • Thanks so much for the info Richard. They are so delicious. I didn’t know that you could store them for so long in the fridge.

    • Frank
      Thanks for the note and comment. Although I have had salmon right out of the Kenai and mahi mahi right out of the Gulf, I was still truly surprised to find how much different truly fresh oysters taste. Even after they have been in the frig for a few weeks they are still fantastic. Storing them flat side up makes a big difference.
      All my best,

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