Apalachee Bay Oysters- Big Bend on the Road
Last month I took a boat ride with Joel Singletary, of Sea Tow. Joel has been a supporter of fishing and boating in the Big Bend for decades. Joel was willing to spend a few hours showing us the new addition to Apalachee Bay, oyster farms.
Oyster farming is a new venture in our area, and we are not certain of its longevity. However, the little creatures are growing, and the oyster industry could be with us for years to come.
My goal in this short story is to share how the oyster farms will affect fishing.
The location is in the Piney Island area of Apalachee Bay. Updated Naviotics charts have the boundaries marked. A continued updating will be needed as the presence of farming areas could grow. In the boundaries, you will find new lettered poles. (Similar to channel markers). Inside the lettered poles, you will find ropes, floats, PVC pipes, and other farming essentials. My photos hopefully take some of the mystery out of your first encounter with the farms.
Make a note, these are not closed waters, and there are travel lanes between the farms for boaters. It could be hard to decipher the lanes at first sight, but anyone who regularly fishes the area will get familiar, as we would with a maze of oyster bars. Just like oyster bars, caution will be needed on high tide, as some obstacles could be under water. My advice is to use caution in the area, and be respectful to private property. Both commercial operations and recreational anglers are going to have to work together through the process.
On a fishing ecology standpoint, the new oyster farms provide a series of inshore reefs and protected zones. This could be great for inshore species. As fishermen, we know reefs work. The “more reefs the better” is the best management tool we have discovered in modern fisheries management. With that being said, as anglers, lets watch the process of farming and gather feedback. I have already suggested a few ideas to help anglers navigate the area better.
If all goes well, the oyster farms have the ability to filter millions of gallons of water inside the bay, while providing jobs in a rural community. The same rural community that keeps our area, boat landings and public waters pristine. This is the Big Bend, and we have the most pristine fishing grounds in the state. Lets work together, and hope for the best results.
Capt. Mike McNamara