​​​Recreational Oystering in Maryland

The recreational harvest of oysters in Maryland does not require a license or permit, but you must be a resident of the State. A Maryland resident may take up to 100 oysters per day but the harvested oysters are only for personal, noncommercial use and cannot be sold. All of the oysters must all meet the minimum size requirement of 3" as measured from hinge to bill. The oysters must be culled on the bar where they were caught and all undersized oysters and shell material must be returned to the bar.

Time for taking oysters:

Two kids on a pier looking at oysters.
  • The oyster season runs from October 1 through March 31.
  • Recreational harvest may occur on the following days/times:
    Monday through Saturday: Sunrise to 12:00 p.m (noon).​

Harvesting Methods:

A person may catch oysters recreationally only by hand, rake, shaft tong, or diving with or without scuba equipment. Also a resident may not catch oysters recreationally while on the boat of someone who is catching oysters commercially. Note that certain areas are reserved for Hand Tongs Only where no diving or other gears other than hand tongs are allowed to harvest oysters. These areas are described in COMAR and can be found here: https://dsd.maryland.gov/regulations/Pages/​. The areas should be marked with buoys. For questions related to Hand Tong Only area lines or buoys or to request a chart of a specific area, contact the Hydrographics Unit at (410) 643-6521.

Other Important Information:

Before going out recreational oystering it is important to be aware of places in your area which are closed to shellfishing. The Department of Natural Resources has closures like Sanctuaries and Reserves which are used to protect oyster restoration areas or areas with industry investment, respectively. The Maryland Department of the Environment has Restricted and Conditional areas which can be closed due to pollution.
To find if there are any closures in your area, you should check the State of Maryland Shellfish Closure Area book. The book has maps and coordinates for the Sanctuary and Reserve areas. The book also shows the boundaries of the historic oyster bars and can help you locate possible areas to find oysters in. The Shellfish Closure Area book ​is available online. Other closed areas may be found on the Public Notice page under the "Shellfish Closures/Openings" tab.​
To check for Maryland Department of the Envi​ronment closures in your area, refer to their ​website. Restricted areas are always closed to harvest, while conditional areas are closed if there is 1" or more of rain in any 24-hour period. To find out what conditional areas are closed after a rainfall, you can visit the website or call toll free 1-800-541-1210.

Oyster shell is an important and limited resource. So once you've enjoyed your oysters, please consider donating the leftover shells to the Oyster Recovery Partnership. The shells will go towards creating more oysters for a variety of projects around the Chesapeake Bay. The Oyster Recovery Partnership has public drop-off points​ around Maryland where your shells can be donated.