Visit Chesapeake Bay Magazine November 20 2012
I wanted to take a closer look, so I contacted Chris Ludford, one of most enthusiastic of the oystermen.
Ludford, who works fulltime as a fireboat captain for the city, spends much of his free time growing and harvesting oysters on the river. It’s crazy, he admits, spending all this time on the water, but he clearly loves it—the waders, the oyster cages, the outdoors. One morning I went out with Ludford and two friends, Jerry Boothe and Ray Hunter, to a channel through the marsh and watched him cull through his latest crop. A puppy drum jumped as he dropped anchor from his 18-foot Parker Sou’wester.
The baby oysters he had bought in May were about two millimeters, he said. “When you see it, it’s going to blow your mind.”
And of course it did. The babies in fine mesh baskets were the size of quarters. And the ones that had been around for nine months were about three inches and just about ready for market. Chris picked up a couple of the larger cages and culled through the oysters, returning smaller ones for more growth, eliminating the ones that had opened, and selecting several dozen of the larger ones. He placed them in plastic baskets and polished them by gently shaking them and then plunging them in the water.
“It’s almost like panning for gold,” he said, the wonder of it all in his voice.