Clam Digging in Georgia

by Emily Jarvis

Georgia isn't known for its clamming---shrimp is king in Georgia's coastal waters---but the state's salt marshes harbor plenty of clams for recreational digging. Recreational clam digging requires a state fishing license and there are restrictions on the haul you can collect. The tide comes in quickly in the marshes, so always check the tide schedule before heading out for a dig.

Georgia Clams

Hard clams, also called littlenecks, chowders, cherrystones or quahogs, are the most abundant clam species in Georgia's coastal waters. The different names signify the size of the clams. Quahogs and chowders are the largest, while cherrystones and littlenecks are medium and small sizes, respectively. Unlike hard clams found in the Northeast that live below the low-tide mark in rivers and sounds, Georgia hard clams live between high and low tide marks in saltwater creeks.

Where to Clam

Recreational clamming is restricted to designated areas that undergo regular water quality testing and are approved by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. There is a public clamming area on Tybee Island near Savannah. Its boundaries are South Channel to the north, Lazaretto Creek to the east and Bull River to the west. In Liberty County, the picking area is bordered by Sunbury Creek and the Medway River. In McIntosh County, the picking area runs the length of Duplin River on the western side of Sapelo Island. In Glynn County, the marsh along the north border of Jointer Creek is designated for public clamming. Camden County has three discrete areas on the western side of Cumberland Island where you may dig for clams.

When to Clam

Unlike clams in the Northeast, Georgia clams do not hibernate in the winter, so they can be harvested year-round. Clam digging is done in the mud of marshes, where high tide can come in very quickly and create a dangerous environment. Low tide is generally in the very early morning and evening. Be sure to check a reliable local tide schedule for exact times before you set out.

Licenses and Restrictions

In Georgia, recreational shellfish harvesting is restricted to designated areas. You must have a Georgia fishing license to collect shellfish. Only hand-held implements may be used to harvest clams. Clams can only be harvested from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. The size of the clams that can be collected is also regulated. The depth from one shell half to the other must be at least ¾ of an inch. Only one bushel of clams per person per day, or one bushel per boat per day, can be collected.

About the Author

Emily Jarvis is a graduate of University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism. Her articles have appeared in "Southern Distinction Magazine" and "The Red & Black." Jarvis holds a Bachelor of Arts in magazine journalism and a Master of Arts in journalism.

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