I was not expecting much in the way of oysters from a surf trip to the Pacific coast of Nicaragua last winter. I was unable to find anything related during some preliminary research on the subject. Except for the fact that there was a town just south of San Juan del Sur, our destination, called Ostional. I could not confirm exactly what that translates to in English but I knew ostion means oyster. That was enough to make a short day trip down close to the Costa Rican border to see if there was some hidden oyster paradise in the coastal jungles of Nicaragua.
Driving south of San Juan del Sur we passed a couple of small towns and tourist outposts, bumping along a red dirt road, heads out the window looking and listening for monkeys. We reached Ostional without really knowing it, doubling back and taking the only road west, presumably to the water. The road came to an end at a seemingly forgotten stretch of land, which was home to a few hammocks on shore and a small fleet of fishing boats just of the rocky beach.
There was an empty bar a little ways down the beach, outside of which a man was mending a tired fishing net. It seemed like anywhere without a surf break around here was out of luck as far as luring any tourist traffic. Especially unsurprising here considering the state of the only road in and out. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to uncover any secret oyster lore in Ostional, and a cursory exploration of the rocks did not yield any discoveries.
That changed, however, on our way back to San Juan del Sur, when we stopped at a well-known surf break at Playa Yankee. The road in and out of this beach was probably the hairiest we’d been on and would have been impossible without some serious all wheel drive. The tide was about dead low and there was nothing breaking so I asked a couple of locals if there were any fish around. They said there were, so I asked about oysters. To my surprise, they actually knew what I was talking about and said they were around as well, although there isn’t really a market for them. Curious, I took my fly rod down to the rocks and threw a couple casts, all the while scoping the lowest reaching rocks for signs of life.
Sure enough on a concealed edge of rock close to the water line, I saw the unmistakable remnants of a bivalve set. Upon further examination, there were a handful of individuals still alive that appeared to be oysters. Although too small for consumption they were nonetheless oysters, Ostrea conchaphila perhaps, a close relative of the Olympia, which is native to the West coast of North America
When I got back Stateside, I did a little digging and turns out there is an oyster industry in Ostional. Traditionally run by women, which might explain why I didn’t get anywhere, I only spoke with men! I managed to find a couple links to a proposed project to formalize the oyster harvesting industry in the area.