“Coming to Rhode Island via Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Harry “Trip” Whilden was drawn into an early life of fishing and hunting by a network of colorful, generous and clever characters with interesting names such as “Old Man Joe.” Trip, called so to distinguish him from father and grandfather, enthusiastically learned everything he could about living off the land and local waters from these men. A surprise to nobody who knew him, Trip gravitated to making a living by boat, which he has successfully done since 1989. His commercial fishing repertoire would eventually include shellfishing, offshore and inshore lobstering, and dragging.
Like all wild-catch fishermen, Capt. Trip Whilden has experienced the numerous ups and downs due to variable fishing stock populations, regulation, and the whims of market prices beyond his control. Making a living from the sea has always been a challenge. But his love for what he was doing was so strong he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. What the Captain needed to do was come up with an idea for additional income that brought a little more financial stability into his life. But for Trip it had to be a venture that kept him on his beloved boat and Narragansett Bay.
In 2012 Capt. Trip had a vision of how he could continue to be a successful Rhode Island waterman. It involved the revival of the concept of shellfish aquaculture in Rhode Island waters.
After much reflection, research, mentoring, and not without a little trepidation, Capt. Trip formed the Wickford Oyster Company in 2013, acquiring a four acre lease from the state of Rhode Island for a full-fledged oystering operation in the waters just south of Fox Island.
The learning curve was steep. In addition to tapping into local government and educational sources of information, listening to others who had recently blazed trails in aquaculture, Capt. Trip employed a sound “trial and error” strategy for growing oysters based on his lifetime of experience on the water.
Wickford Oyster Company’s seed oysters were lovingly nurtured from the beginning and tended to by a team of committed workers meticulously trained by the Captain himself. The growing shellfish had to be periodically hauled up for careful cleaning, sorting, and tumbling – hard work for Trip’s crew, which had to be accomplished in all types of weather, year round. But the results proved to be stunning!
Wickford Oyster Farm is located in Narragansett Bay’s West Passage where the brackish nutrient-laden waters run. There the oysters flourish and acquire a distinctive crisp, buttery, and briny taste of northern-grown oysters, evocative of the nearby clear and cool Atlantic Ocean. Foxes, with their distinctive liquor-holding cups brimming with flavor, are now prized by oyster aficionados everywhere.
The Wickford Oyster Company continues Rhode Island’s rich tradition of providing fresh, quality shellfish for America’s premier seafood markets and most discriminating restaurants.”