Photo illustration, New England Boating.

Photo illustration, New England Boating.

Nothing says summer like a bushel of bivalves, so what better way to prolong the season than by grabbing a clam rake hitting the mud flats? Clamming might seem simple, but there are some definite tricks to the trade, as I learned in 2012 on a clamming safari with Duxbury, Massachusetts, bayman and charter captain Dave Bitters.

Our quarry was littlenecks (a.k.a., cherrystones, quahogs, hardshells) and the hunting grounds were the tidal flats of the Back River, north of the Powder Point Bridge. At low tide this area is accessible by foot—but beware the shoe-sucking mud! Proper footwear is definitely recommended, so wear boots or waders for this sport. And be prepared to get dirty.

Other items you’ll need:

  • clamming license
  • clam rake (shorter is better)
  • rubber gloves
  • basket (wire frame for recreational clamming)
  • size ring (for measuring clams)

Another item you should consider carrying is a compass, in case a fog rolls in while you are deep on the flats. Fog can move in at any time, and it’s easy to get disoriented. Be aware of the rising tide or thunderstorms as well.

Once on the flats, Bitters showed me how to prospect for clams using a “trenching” technique to locate a pocket of quahogs. Once a honey-hole is uncovered, he works outward, often establishing a grid pattern to help him dig efficiently.

It didn’t take us long to collect a bushel of clams, which we divided back at the truck. When it comes to storing clams, Bitters says to keep them in a mesh bag or paper bag. Clams kept in water will eventually use up the available oxygen and suffocate. As long as you keep your clams refrigerated, they will survive for a long time out of the water. Do not eat any clams that open prematurely or that don’t open after steaming.

To learn more about digging littlenecks CLICK HERE.

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