Clam Digging Techniques

by Mary Barton
Digging fresh clams requires only a few tools and a pair of sharp eyes.

Digging fresh clams requires only a few tools and a pair of sharp eyes.

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America's beaches offer some of the most bountiful clam sources in the world. Clam chowder, fresh air, the ocean surf and sand castles entice amateur and seasoned clam diggers alike each year to the beach to harvest clams. Join the fun for a little exercise, recreation and delectable nutritious shellfish.

Necessary Equipment

A clam shovel with an 11-inch blade or a clam "gun" with a 4-by-3 inch tube are the preferred equipment used to dig for clams. You'll need an ice cooler and plenty of ice to store your catch. If you shell your catch at the beach, freezer bags are handy to store the clams. Clams may also be transported alive. Place the shellfish above the ice in a cooler, separating it from contact with the ice by damp paper towels. Keep the lid slightly ajar to allow oxygen to reach the live clams. Maintain a minimum of 40° F. Properly cooled, clams will live for more than a week. Freeze excess clams for future use but discard any clams that die in storage.

When to Dig

Clams move more quickly in warm temperatures and slow down in cool temperatures. The ideal time to harvest clams is in the spring and fall. Surface clams are ripe for picking in March and April in the spring and September and October in the fall. Clams are most easily dug at low tide when they are closer to the surface of the beach.

How to Use a Clam Shovel

Look for dimples, a raised doughnut shape, or a minimum of a dime-size hole in the sand. These "shows" indicate a clam is beneath the surface. With a clam shovel, place the blade 4 to 6 inches seaward of the show. The handle of the shovel should point away from the ocean. Keep the blade vertical as you push it into the sand. It may help to move the shovel from side to side to penetrate the sand. Scoop out the sand and repeat two or three times, then reach into the hole, locate the clam with your hands and pull it to the surface.

How to Use a Clam Gun

When using a clam gun, center the canister over the show and push it into the sand. It helps to rock the canister from side to side to get it into the sand to a depth of 6 to 10 inches. Once submerged in the sand, cover the air hole on the top of the canister and pull up the canister. Release the sand from the container and remove the clam from the sand. Repeat two to three times if necessary.

About the Author

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mary Barton has been writing professionally since 1990. She has written two nonfiction books, worked as the product manager for a publishing company, an editor for two newspapers and was the content manager for various Microsoft websites. Barton has a Bachelor of Science in computer science from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Photo Credits

  • Zedcor Wholly Owned/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images