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Have you tried clam digging?

  • Feb 3, 2015

In many parts of the U.S. and Canada, clam digging, or clamming, is a popular summer pasttime. Residents of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states might spend hours digging for quahogs, while people in the Pacific Northwest search for razor clams. Some just dig for sport, while others are looking for their dinner. 

If you've never been clamming before and want to try your hand at this messy summer sport, make sure you know what you're doing. 

Have the right gear 
Before you go clamming you need the right tools, or else you won't end up with any clams at all. 

  • A license - Just like hunting or fishing, you'll likely need a license to go clamming, but it depends on the town. It's typically a small fee that's much less than the potential fine. Also there may be restrictions on which days clamming is permitted.
  • A bucket - Hopefully you'll find plenty of clams, so it's important to have a bucket handy. Find something sturdy and large enough to hold your haul. 
  • A rake - Many people opt for a garden hoe, but there are specialty rakes as well. Rakes specifically designed for clamming will be shaped and designed optimally for digging sand. 
  • A shovel - Not everyone wants a shovel when they go clamming, but if you bring one make sure it's sturdy and ready for digging through wet, rocky sand. 
  • Boots - You can wear rubber boots or old sneakers to go clamming, but whatever you wear  will get wet. Make sure you don't go barefoot, however. Although it may save your footwear, you're likely to cut your foot on a rock, piece of glass or razor clam itself. 
  • Appropriate clothing - Like your footwear, your clothing will get wet and muddy. Try swim trunks and an old t-shirt if the weather is right and it won't matter how wet you get. 

Know the tides 
Use your watch tide graph to find out when low tide is at place where you're planning to go clamming. Clamming is easiest at low tide, so try to arrive at your location about 30 minutes before to optimize your time. Consider talking to other clammers as well about their tidal preferences for tips. 

Find a good spot 
Clamming is all about being in the right place. Tamar Haspel wrote in the magazine Edible Cape Cod about when she and her husband first started clamming and how much trouble they had finding a spot. Then they simply talked to other clammers. 

"Each town has hot spots, and those hot spots change as one gets clammed out and another one opens, Haspel explained. "When Kevin and I first moved here, we heard that shellfishers were notoriously closed-mouthed about clamming locations, but that hasn't been our experience. There's a kind of fellowship among those of us who show up, week after week, at the beach at low tide, rake and bucket in hand, and we've found that just about everyone is friendly and forthcoming."

Learn how to clam 
The basics of clamming are simple: dig into the sand, scoop out sand with your rake and look for clams. Some people prefer to use their hands to feel for the clams, while other want to use their tools the whole time. 

Atlantic Seafood Company explained that the right way to clam is on one knee as if you were gardening, not on two feet like a farmer. This is more comfortable and effective. 

Give yourself time to learn various techniques from fellow diggers and experiment to establish your own customs. The basic aspects never change though. Just dig and find your clams. 

ProTrek's PRW2500R-1 watch can be a useful tool when clamming the shores. The watch itself is not only water resistant, but it also offers a moon and tide graph that conveniently provides information for the best clamming conditions.

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