At the Oyster Roast, everyone stands to gorge on the piles of steamed oysters. This year’s event will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 30. Desserts at the Working Watermen’s Exhibit from 3 to 5. Photo: C. Leinbach

Update: The Fish House found plenty of oysters and is getting ready to steam them all up Friday, Dec. 30.

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To read about last year’s Roast, click here.

Pattie Johnson Plyler, who manages retail store of the Ocracoke Seafood Co., is moving heaven and earth to find fat, juicy oysters in time for the 11th Annual Oyster Roast from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30, outside the establishment.

Last year, it was the last minute before the group found the oysters they were looking for—not just any oysters, but the kind that have baby crabs in them.

This year they are having the same difficulty but expect to prevail, Plyler said.

These little pea crabs are considered rare delicacies by oyster aficionados.

Pea crabs (Pinnotheres ostreum) or oyster crabs (Zaops ostreus) are small soft-bodied crabs that live inside bivalves such as oysters and mussels. Once they enter an oyster, they live inside the oyster’s gills and feed on the food that filters in.

The prize in an oyster: a pea crab. Photo: C. Leinbach

This all-you-can-eat event attracts locals and visitors alike to dig into more than 40 bushels of oysters, 220 pounds of shrimp and homemade fish stew. 

“This is to show everyone how important the seafood industry is to North Carolina,” said Vince O’Neal last year, who owns Pony Island Restaurant and who made the fish stew. “Visitors come to Ocracoke to enjoy the seafood and all of the bounty of the sea and nature.”

The price for the seafood feast, including crackers, water or soda and live music, will be determined according to the price of the oysters.

Last year, the price was $25 per person and $30 for “heavy hitters,” i.e. those who consume several pecks of oysters.  Plyler expects the price to be close to that of last year.

Availability of food is first-come, first-served and there are no advance ticket sales for this rain-or-shine event.

While not technically a fundraiser, proceeds will help fund Ocracoke Working Watermen’s Association (OWWA) education and outreach activities.  OWWA operates “The Fish House,” as it is called, that supports the activities of about 30 commercial fishermen. 

For this annual homage to the oyster, the group sets up several rows of plywood tables on top of saw horses.

A pile of freshly steamed oysters. Photo: C. Leinbach

Then they dump piles of steamed oysters on the tables while patrons, who are asked to bring their own oyster shuckers, stand and shuck away. 

Dessert and hot cider follows starting at 3 p.m. in the Working Waterman’s Exhibit in Community Square.  Islanders and visitors alike are asked to bring a dessert to share.

The fish house closes for the winter after Thanksgiving weekend and opens again in the spring when the waters are warmer and the fish return, usually in March.


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