If your trip is taking you anywhere along the coast of the ocean, you can probably find yourself some delicious fresh seafood! All you have to do is dig for it! Clams like to burry themselves in the sand and if you know how and where to look, you can dig yourself up a tasty dinner! Here’s where, when, and how to go clam digging, and what to make with them afterward!
Where To Find Clams
Most of the clams you’ll want to look for will be along the coast of an ocean. Freshwater clams aren’t generally as abundant. Once you find the spot in which you want to look, make sure you know the local laws! Some areas prohibit you from taking smaller clams, and some say only certain types can be harvested at certain times. This will vary, so look into it. However, once you’re set there are some easy signs and ways to locate them.
Wait until low tide! This is when the water will recede and expose more of the beach. The clams will be farther out, so getting out there when the water is furthest out is best. The first thing you want to look for is vegetation. Clams tend to gravitate toward vegetative areas and away from the rocky areas since the soil is easier to burrow into. Next, look for small holes in the sand. These are holes created by the clam sticking their neck up from the sand to feed. All you need to do to be sure is stomp next to it and see if water squirts out. If nothing happens, it’s just a hole. If water comes out, it’s most likely a clam’s hole! This is where you want to start digging!
Some of the most popular areas for clam digging seem to be Maine, Oregon, and Washington. While just about any beach along the ocean coast will have the possibility for clams, these just seem to be the places with the most success. It may be due to the climate and latitude, or there are just more people interested in clam digging in these areas.
When To Go Clam Digging
The weather is a big player on when you can go clam digging so the “clam season” will vary depending on where you are. When you’re in the northern areas such as Maine, Washington, and Oregon, they’re abundant in the spring and summer. This isn’t because they’re not around when it gets cold, but because they’re hard to get to! When the temps begin to dip below freezing, the water that covers the mud these clams are buried in starts to freeze. Getting past the ice to get to the mud and start digging becomes difficult, and at times impossible. So if you’re clam digging in the northern areas, know that in the winter you may have some ice working against you. If you’re in the more southern areas, especially Florida, where the weather is almost always warm, you’ll enjoy year-round clam digging! Just again, make sure to check the regulations of the local area. Some places will ban digging at certain times in order to allow them time to reproduce.
A clam rake is something that you’ll want if you’re after a lot of clams, and especially if you want the type that's buried deeper down. This rake looks a bit like a cross between a rake and a lacrosse stick. It’s basically a rake that pulls through the sand with a basket attached to the end to catch the clams. If you’re not so worried about getting a huge amount in a small amount of time, then you can just bring a hand-held rake or shovel and you’ll be fine.
Anther important piece of equipment you want is a clam gauge. This is a tool that lets you easily determine which clams to keep and which to throw back. To keep the population up, clams have to be a specific size in order to keep them, which will vary by location. This gauge is super easy to use and basically if you can fit your clam through it, you need to throw it back.
One thing that would be instrumental in having a good time while clam digging is a pair of water shoes. Typically the sand is going to contain a lot of broken pieces of shells, especially if someone else was digging there before you. You don’t want to slice your foot while walking along to look for them. These shoes can get wet without holding in a bunch of water, but have a protective sole to keep your feet safe.
Finally make sure you bring a bucket! You don’t want to just stuff the clams in your pocket, so you need somewhere to put them. Bring a 5-gallon bucket to allow you to gather as many clams as you want.
What To Make From Your Freshly Caught Clams
These dishes will greatly depend on what types of clam you find. Different types have different tastes and textures, so you may need to find out what you have dug up! There are a lot of comparison charts on the internet to help you with that!
Eat Them Raw
There are some clams you can eat raw, right out of the water! Hard shell clams come in many sizes and the sizes will help you determine if you can/should eat them raw. What are called littlenecks and cherrystones are the smallest of the hard shell clams and these are the best to eat raw. Littlenecks are typically just a little more than an inch wide and cherrystones are larger but less than four inches.
There is actually what is called a steamer clam, or more technically known as soft shell clams. They have a thinner, more brittle shell and you can usually identify them from the long neck sticking out of them. These necks are actually too big to fit all the way in the shell so they can never fully close the way the hard shell clams do. These are great steamed. The larger version of the hard shelled clams called Topnecks are usually good steamed too!
Pretty much any type of clam is great grilled and garlic butter is the perfect complement! All you have to do is heat up your grill, and don’t turn them while cooking. The heat will cause them to pop open which is the sign that they’re done.
Clam sauce is delicious on pasta! To make the clam sauce, typically you’re going to heat garlic and white wine in a pan with the clams. Once the clams open, you can remove them and add the sauce to your pasta, and top the dish with the clams. There are a lot of clam sauce recipes that add different things like red pepper flakes and other seasonings. It all depends on your taste.
There is always clam chowder! There’s nothing like a good chowder to warm you if you get cold, especially while out there digging! Usually you’ll want to use the bigger clams, often know as chowder clams, for a dish like this. There are tons of clam chowder recipes online. Some call for fresh clams while others canned. If it calls for canned, you can simply substitute the same amount of clams!