Clamming on Duxbury Bay

When it came time to shoot a video on how to dig clams, we went straight to the expert. Captain Dave Bitters of Baymen Charters has been roaming the clam flats of Duxbury Bay all his life, and knows a thing or two about hunting the bay’s abundant bivalves.

Dave Bitters rakes the mud for clams on the Back River flats. Photo Tom Richardson

A few years back, Bitters and friend Gianna Rose took me clamming for littlenecks (a.k.a., cherrystones, quahogs, hardshells) on the tidal flats of Duxbury’s 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 activity. And be prepared to get muddy!

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 thing you should consider carrying is a compass, in case the 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 approaching 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.