Skip to main content

Humboldt Bay Oyster Tours in Eureka

09/27/2015 10:26PM ● Published by Jordan Venema

Gallery: More photos [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

The World is your Oyster

October 2015
By Jordan Venema
Photos: James Mazzotta

There's a rugged almost paradoxical charm to California’s North Coast, with its blue-collar roots and Victorian airs. From logging and prospecting to not a few fine breweries, the region has its diverse industries. At the heart of this coast – and its industry – is Humboldt Bay, the largest protected body of water between San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound. But the significance of this bay goes deeper than its waters, which accounts economically for one of the region’s most significant exports: oysters.

Though Humboldt Bay accounts for nearly 70 percent of oysters farmed in California, most Californians haven’t a clue about the source of their bivalves. Nor do they have the same preconceived ideas about farming oysters as they do about mining, logging, brewing or any other kind of farming. For those who haven’t trudged knee-deep in the shallows of Humboldt Bay, the only regular thought given to the briny delicacy is how it tastes when slurped through its half-shell.

That might be true for most Californians, but not Sebastian “Oyster Dude” Elrite, owner of Aqua-Rodeo Farms, a 10-acre oyster farm just off the shore of Arcata. Elrite has worked in the industry since 1992, and like other farmers, has learned to work in cycles – but with the tides, not seasons. His skin is tanned, his blond hair stained by sun and salt: call him a man of the water before a man of the earth.

After so many years, Elrite still loves oysters. “Nah,” how could a person tire of them? he asks with a laugh. “They’re different every time.” And Elrite wants to give others the up-close opportunity to see what goes into farming oysters, and why he never tires of flowing with the tide. The Humboldt Bay Oyster Tours is a two-hour, $75 excursion. It begins at low tide, just east of the Eureka promenade, where Elrite helps passengers step carefully into his boat. Elrite is friendly, down-to-earth, as he answers questions: How is Eureka’s economy growing? When was the new promenade built? What other oysters are grown in the bay?

The boat glides slowly past the privately docked boats, the deep-sea trawlers, the warehouses along the dock, and then speeds into the open bay. “Hold on to your hat,” he says over the engine and wind.

The boat sloshes to a halt, and subtle ripples lap against its hull. The farms and hatcheries surround the boat, partially submerged, almost like Japanese rice gardens. PVC pipes rise from the water like signposts, marking the sunken acreage.

All things considered, oyster farming doesn’t get too technological. There’s no advanced equipment to till the fields, or nutrient-enriched fertilizer for the soil – just the tide, the water and a few techniques to keep the oysters from clustering. Elrite settles the boat alongside a hatchery and slips into the waist-high water.

“Once upon a time there used to be oyster espionage,” he says, discussing how farmers’ methods have diversified. But Elrite doesn’t patent his ideas. “Nah, I’m not too worried about that. I just want everybody to have oysters.”

“How’s the water?” a passenger asks Elrite. “You know,” he considers the temperature, “it’s all right. I don’t have too many holes in my gaiters.” He reaches under the water and pulls up a string of oysters.

Elrite points to dark spots against the shell. “They settle larvae into spat on shells that are then transported in bags, which they then string up on ropes,” he explains. “Each shell can have up to 30-40 oyster spat, all little baby oysters attached to the mother shell.”

The hatcheries are where young oysters “acclimate” to Humboldt Bay, “harden up,” and then are removed to where they are de-clustered by pneumatic hammers. Then it’s back into the bay.

Back in the boat, Elrite discusses the next stop. “We’ll make an intermittent pit stop to show another technology.” He discusses new techniques for raising Kumamoto oysters, and the latest Seapa baskets, “which stands for sea purse baskets.” These baskets are tied together, almost like an underwater clothesline, which rises and falls with the tide, allowing the Seapa to rotate so oysters don’t cluster.

Finally, Elrite brings the boat near his farm, where the water comes to just below the knees. Elrite disembarks and pulls the boat to shallower water, and his passengers follow suit, boots sinking an inch into the bottom of the bay.

Elrite walks between rows of rebar pipes, shaped to hold baskets that contain single-seed Pacific oysters, which take about 18 months to mature. He explains that he’s switched to a method using long-line pipes, a plasticon- plastic rig to prevent baskets from rubbing against the rebar and breaking loose during strong currents. He turns a basket, checking for ready oysters, moving them around to keep them loose.

The mud sucks with each step, and his passengers walk to the shore among a pile of large, clustered oysters. Elrite will eventually use a hammer to separate these oysters, so they can be sold individually.

It’s something of an Easter egg hunt, searching for oysters ready to “harvest” and take back to the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center, where they will be prepared and eaten. But as an appetizer, Elrite pries an Olympia oyster, much smaller than the Pacific, from one of the rebar pipes.

“Large amounts of Olympia oysters will set on them,” he explains, describing how the native oysters settle with the tide. “The larvae will attach to the rebar, and there’s not a big market, but I do sell some to the Tourism Center.”

He takes some pliers and a knife and separates the shell, offering the small oyster to a passenger, who slurps it down. They have a briny, coppery finish. A guest says their distinct flavor is becoming popular in the Bay Area.

“Oh, people are getting foodie on it? I like that kind of talk,” Elrite says with a laugh.

Another passenger asks if he’s ever found a pearl. No, says Elrite, but a friend did once.

Passengers bring their oysters to the boat, which Elrite places in a bucket. He starts the engine, and the boat speeds across the bay, nearing a flock of bobbing cormorants. As the boat races past, hundreds of birds extend their wings and take flight.

At the end of the tour, after the passengers have removed their boots and lifejackets, Elrite hands over the oysters, which will be prepared at Humboldt Bay Tourism Center. In this beautifully ornate, late-18th century building, the oysters are shucked and served, and the full circle closes. In less than 30 minutes, the oysters have gone from the bay to the dinner plate, and from there: down the hatch, but not before they’re checked for pearls. None this time, but what these passengers did find, through the Humboldt Bay Oyster Tour, was a unique experience, a real diamond in the rough.

Humboldt Bay Oyster Tours
www.humboldtbayoystertours.com
via Humboldt Bay Tourism Center
205 G St., Eureka • (707) 672-3850

Recreation, In Print
  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/21/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/21/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • An Evening at the Vineyard

    09/21/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Enjoy the beautiful scenery that Matson Vineyards has to offer, all while enjoying Wine tasting, ...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Vinyl Night

    09/21/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Vinyl Night! Join us downtown the first and third Thursday of every month. We are going to ditch ...


  • Art Show

    09/21/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    On September 21st, The Crowning Jewels in downtown Redding will feature a fun art exhibit with ...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/22/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/22/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Free Taste Test

    09/22/2017
    03:00PM — 05:30PM

    Choose to make September the start of a healthier life by joining the fun at the following FREE r...


  • Hayfork Farmers' Market

    09/22/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    Come listen to live music, shop for local goods and produce and cultivate community! The Farmers'...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    09/22/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • 2017 Autumn Exhibit - Reception

    09/22/2017
    05:00PM — 07:00PM

    Please join us as we welcome the Artists whose work will be featured in Art in the City’s Autumn ...


  • Riverfront Playhouse Presents

    09/22/2017
    07:30PM

    By Mary Lynn Dobson Directed by Samantha Fork Welcome to another stellar season at the Neighbo...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/24/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • A gathering and show by collectors of military memorabilia. Helicopter fly-ins, armament and equi...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/24/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Jewelry Making Classes for All Levels

    09/24/2017
    12:30PM — 03:30PM

    The Siskiyou Arts Museum in Dunsmuir will once again offer a jewelry making class with Mt. Shasta...


  • Kitchen Tour

    09/24/2017
    01:00PM — 05:00PM

    Kitchen Tour: Tour 5 fabulous renovated kitchens on Sunday September 24th, from 1 to 5 pm in the ...


  • Riverfront Playhouse Presents

    09/24/2017
    02:00PM

    By Mary Lynn Dobson Directed by Samantha Fork Welcome to another stellar season at the Neighbo...


  • Leann Rimes

    09/24/2017
    07:30PM

    LeAnn Rimes has sold more than 44 million albums, won two GRAMMY Awards, three Academy of Country...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/25/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/25/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/21/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/21/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • An Evening at the Vineyard

    09/21/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Enjoy the beautiful scenery that Matson Vineyards has to offer, all while enjoying Wine tasting, ...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Vinyl Night

    09/21/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Vinyl Night! Join us downtown the first and third Thursday of every month. We are going to ditch ...


  • Art Show

    09/21/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    On September 21st, The Crowning Jewels in downtown Redding will feature a fun art exhibit with ...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/22/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/22/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Free Taste Test

    09/22/2017
    03:00PM — 05:30PM

    Choose to make September the start of a healthier life by joining the fun at the following FREE r...


  • Hayfork Farmers' Market

    09/22/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    Come listen to live music, shop for local goods and produce and cultivate community! The Farmers'...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    09/22/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • 2017 Autumn Exhibit - Reception

    09/22/2017
    05:00PM — 07:00PM

    Please join us as we welcome the Artists whose work will be featured in Art in the City’s Autumn ...


  • Riverfront Playhouse Presents

    09/22/2017
    07:30PM

    By Mary Lynn Dobson Directed by Samantha Fork Welcome to another stellar season at the Neighbo...


  • The Red Bluff-Tehama County Chamber Certified Farmers' Markets open June 3rd! All farmers and ve...


  • Redding Walk To End Alzheimer's

    09/23/2017
    08:00AM — 12:00PM

    Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Al...


  • Start Up Saturdays | Vendor Market

    09/23/2017
    08:00AM — 01:00PM

    A space where local crafters, creatives, and visionaries can sell handmade products and share abo...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/23/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • A gathering and show by collectors of military memorabilia. Helicopter fly-ins, armament and equi...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/23/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Redding Holistic, Psychic and Arts & Crafts faire

    09/23/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    The Redding Holistic, Psychic and Arts & Crafts Faire where you will be able to experience After-...


  • A Musical Reformation Celebration Concert

    09/23/2017
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    Carillons Handbell Choir, Redding Bell Peppers, and bell choirs from All Saints Episcopal and Tri...


  • Wildcard Oktoberfest

    09/23/2017
    04:00PM — 09:00PM

    Wildcard will be hosting Oktoberfest for the second year in downtown Redding at their Tied House ...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    09/23/2017
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    09/23/2017
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Gatekeepers' Shining Affair

    09/23/2017
    07:00PM — 11:00PM

    A benefit for the Shasta County Gatekeeper Program helping At Risk elders to live safely and happ...


  • Riverfront Playhouse Presents

    09/23/2017
    07:30PM

    By Mary Lynn Dobson Directed by Samantha Fork Welcome to another stellar season at the Neighbo...


  • Reflections, Masterwork #1

    09/23/2017
    07:30PM — 10:00PM

    Barber: School of Scandal Overture Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody of a Theme of Paganini Sibelius: Sy...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/24/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • A gathering and show by collectors of military memorabilia. Helicopter fly-ins, armament and equi...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/24/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Jewelry Making Classes for All Levels

    09/24/2017
    12:30PM — 03:30PM

    The Siskiyou Arts Museum in Dunsmuir will once again offer a jewelry making class with Mt. Shasta...


  • Kitchen Tour

    09/24/2017
    01:00PM — 05:00PM

    Kitchen Tour: Tour 5 fabulous renovated kitchens on Sunday September 24th, from 1 to 5 pm in the ...


  • Riverfront Playhouse Presents

    09/24/2017
    02:00PM

    By Mary Lynn Dobson Directed by Samantha Fork Welcome to another stellar season at the Neighbo...


  • Leann Rimes

    09/24/2017
    07:30PM

    LeAnn Rimes has sold more than 44 million albums, won two GRAMMY Awards, three Academy of Country...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/25/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/25/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/26/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/26/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • The Red Bluff-Tehama County Chamber Certified Farmers' Markets open June 3rd! All farmers and ve...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/27/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/27/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    09/27/2017
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesdays and get $3 off a growler fill! Come by the brewery a...


  • Weaverville Farmers' Market

    09/27/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Weaverville Farmers' Market is held on Wednesdays from 4-7 pm from May through October! tr...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/28/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/28/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • The Pastor as PR Director

    09/28/2017
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Tozer Seminary, Redding, invites pastors and nonprofit directors to a free, no-registration works...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • Honored Elders Dinner

    09/28/2017
    05:30PM — 08:30PM

    Join us September 28, 2017 at 5:30 at Win River Resort in the Event Center for the Princess Brav...


  • Riverfront Playhouse Fundraiser

    09/28/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Grape Escape is hosting a fund raiser for Riverfront Playhouse. September 28 from 6–9 pm.Join...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/29/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/29/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Hayfork Farmers' Market

    09/29/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    Come listen to live music, shop for local goods and produce and cultivate community! The Farmers'...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    09/29/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Riverfront Playhouse Presents

    09/29/2017
    07:30PM

    By Mary Lynn Dobson Directed by Samantha Fork Welcome to another stellar season at the Neighbo...


  • Coffee Painting Silent Auction

    09/30/2017
    08:00AM — 06:00PM

    We are building a 24' Tiny House on Wheels, the first of many that will make up our Tiny House Co...


  • Ono Grange Community Yard Sale

    09/30/2017
    08:00AM — 01:00PM

    Community Yard Sale at the Ono Grange. Find your next treasure and more at the sale. Horse tack, ...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    09/30/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • A Royal Tea Party

    09/30/2017
    10:00AM — 03:00PM

    Magically encounter your favorite storybook characters, delight in a show fit for a King and snac...


  • Historic Hawes Farms

    09/30/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    It’s a whole new season of Fall Harvest Festival fun on the farm, with hayrides, pumpkin patch, l...


  • Recovery Happens

    09/30/2017
    11:00AM — 05:00PM

    Free BBQ, live music and family fun


  • Tent Peg Village

    09/30/2017
    12:00PM — 05:00PM

    Free carnival-type event for kids of all ages. We will have free face painting, puppet shows, ga...


  • 2017 SUNRISE ROTARY MUD MASH

    09/30/2017
    01:00PM — 11:00PM

    COME JOIN THE FUN AT THE ANNUAL REDDING SUNRISE ROTARY MUD MASH ON THE NASH RANCH AT 10925 OLD OR...


  • Come enjoy all the sights and sounds of our farm while taking a stand against domestic abuse. 100...


  • Mud Mash

    09/30/2017
    02:00PM

    Be sure to bring your buddies and family to watch as you are challenged by the creeks, hills, fie...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    09/30/2017
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • For the month of September, the Highland Art Center will feature a fun interactive exhibit with h...


  • Whisperin' Bill Anderson

    09/30/2017
    07:00PM

    There’s an old saying, “If you want someone’s attention, whisper” Bill Anderson has been using...


  • Riverfront Playhouse Presents

    09/30/2017
    07:30PM

    By Mary Lynn Dobson Directed by Samantha Fork Welcome to another stellar season at the Neighbo...


  • The Stone Hearts rock Gallery After Dark!

    09/30/2017
    09:00PM — 11:30PM

    Join us for our Gallery after Dark series with THE STONE HEARTS , as they play some Awesome music...


  • Whitmore Trail and Poker Ride

    10/01/2017
    08:00AM — 03:00PM

    The Whitmore Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. is sponsoring their annual WHITMORE TRAIL AND POKER RID...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    10/01/2017
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • A Royal Tea Party

    10/01/2017
    10:00AM — 03:00PM

    Magically encounter your favorite storybook characters, delight in a show fit for a King and snac...


  • Jewelry Making Classes for All Levels

    10/01/2017
    12:30PM — 03:30PM

    The Siskiyou Arts Museum in Dunsmuir will once again offer a jewelry making class with Mt. Shasta...


  • B--Monthly Free Concert & Open Mic

    10/01/2017
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Redding - California State Old Time Fiddles Association, District 6 Free Old Time Fiddle, Bluegra...


  • Riverfront Playhouse Presents

    10/01/2017
    02:00PM

    By Mary Lynn Dobson Directed by Samantha Fork Welcome to another stellar season at the Neighbo...


  • Music by the Mountain 2017 Fall Festival

    10/01/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    Music by the Mountain is thrilled to once again host the St. Petersburg based Rimsky-Korsakov Str...


  • SAM Welcomes Redding's Charles Valona Trio

    10/01/2017
    04:00PM — 06:00AM

    The Siskiyou Arts Museum in Dunsmuir is very excited to participate in Dunsmuir California’s 6th ...


Enter to Win!

 
Check out our sister publication, Enjoy Magazine: South Valley Living
Wedding Style Guide 2017
Enjoy Magazine Facebook
Enjoy Magazine Instagram Instagram
Enjoy Magazine Pinterest Enjoy Magazine

Enjoy Our Sponsors