Last year, the Port wrote a feature on Fishermen’s Wharf in our “From the Source” series. This year, we revisit this Charleston Marina icon again with its new owners, Will and Shanda Smith. The Smith’s look forward to carrying on the legacy of Fishermen’s Wharf by continuing to value the food, quality, fishermen, customers and the Charleston community.Read More
This blog series on community, industry, and business in Southwest Oregon from the Port’s perspective.
With more than 600 acres of tide lands, Clausen Oysters is the largest oyster farm in all of Oregon. Lilli and Max Clausen started the farm in the 1980s and in January of this year, sold it to four new owners from Southern California who she met through the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA). Port staff met with two of the owners, Norm Abell and Rebecca Richards who run the day-to-day operations of the oyster farm.Read More
Located out in Charleston, Qualman Oyster Farms was established in 1937 and at that time it was the only oyster farm in town. Its current owner, Larry Qualman, took over the business in 1962 and is an oyster farming veteran. Through the pictures (below), you get a sense of Larry’s fondness for oyster farming and the hard work that goes into it.
For those who do not know, most oysters are not harvested from the wild (which I thought…clueless Willamette Valley girl right here!) Oysters are actually grown from seeds. These seeds are created from larvae oysters that attach to oyster shells. In the past, Qualman oysters used to buy their seeds from Miyage, Japan. However, now they are able produce their own.
When the seeds are ready, they are set on top of the stake, in a small groove attached by wires. The stakes are then planted up the South Slough where it takes about 24-30 months to grow the oyster. There is no particular “oyster season” as they can be grown all year round. Afterward, the oysters are harvested and brought back to the facility. There, his staff will separate and shuck them. Qualman oysters are unique in that they are all hand grown, handpicked and local. Since the oysters grow out in the South Slough sanctuary, they taste a bit different than oysters harvested from the bay. The water at the sanctuary is away from houses so the water is clean and pristine. Larry describes them as nice, sweet, and the best oysters out there.
When asked about what he likes most about oyster farming, it’s very simple, he likes getting up early at low tide, heading up the slough, watching the birds and checking on the oysters. It’s a simple life but one that contributes to the economic backbone of Charleston.
Matt (pictured above) opened up Fishermen’s Wharf in 2007 after buying it from the previous owner and his store has been one of the few local stores that provides fresh seafood right off the boat. Since a lot of seafood is usually trucked out of the local community, his store is a great outlet for local fishermen to sell their product and for people to get locally sourced seafood. In addition to fresh seafood, Fishermen’s Wharf also stocks specialty foods and snacks from places such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and more. The staff provides tours of the Charleston Marina and there’s a picnic area where people can enjoy the marina scene.
What is most important to Matt though is not the seafood but the experience that customers get when they go to Fishermen’s wharf. It’s the experience of going down to the docks and picking out fresh seafood that came straight from the commercial fishing boats in the Charleston Marina. Some lucky customers might even get a visit from Charleston Marina’s own harbor seal, Flash.
Fishermen’s wharf also sees itself as an active part of contributing to the local community not only through its store but also through projects such as the America’s Best Communities grant. When asked about where he sees Fishermen’s Wharf in the future, he says “just right here.” Looks like tourists and the local community will have fresh and locally sourced seafood to look forward to for a long time.