The long poles, which are usually 12 feet to 16 feet long have a catch at the end and operate somewhat like scissors. Using these tongs is hard work, but a good oysterman can pull in four to 10 60-pound bags of oysters a day.
The big range in the amount caught is due to weather, seasonal variations and flows from Apalachicola River, the largest river by volume of water flow in the state. The river's beginning can be found 500 miles to the north in Georgia, where two rivers, the Chattahoochee and Flint begin their long journey south only to converge north of the Florida state line.
Many people who make their living on the bay digging for clams, shrimp, or oysters or fishing for grouper or 30 other species of fish believe thirsty Atlanta is using up the waters of Chattahoochee, thus affecting the flows of Apalachicola, which upsets the delicate balance of freshwater and seawater that makes the estuary of Apalachicola so rich in seafood.
For anyone craving oysters or fresh seafood of other varieties this is still the place to be. Anyone driving down from Tallahassee should stop at Posey's in Crawfordville. This is a local place filled with local characters, and seafood (along with just about anything else) is served the way locals like it — fried. The best bet is a plate of fried oysters, hush puppies and cheese grits.
For something a bit more traditional, I recommend two fine places in the historic town of Apalachicola. First is Boss Oyster, a landmark waterfront restaurant that national food pundits seek out. Here the draw is experimenting with different toppings for the oyster, and there are no bad choices.
Less heralded but equally as good is another waterfront place called Up the Creek. The young chef, Brett Gormley, often stretches for the unusual and attains near perfection in his presentation of seafood. For anyone who doesn't like seafood, Gormley does a mean alligator soup or gator burger.
WHEN YOU GO
The closest major airports are in Tallahassee and Panama City, Fla. Then get a car and drive old state road 98.
There are great historic inns such as Coombs House Inn (www.coombshouseinn.com) and Gibson Inn (www.gibsoninn.com) in Apalachicola. I stayed in a condominium on St. George Island.
To arrange a house or condo rental there turn to Collins Vacation Rentals Inc. (www.collinsvacationrentals.com) and Resort Vacation Properties (www.resortvacationproperties.com).
For water activities, such as fishing or kayaking, I used Journeys of St. George Island (www.sgislandjourneys.com).
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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