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Bob Greco

Bob Greco

Chief of Staff, Department of Fish & Game (DFG)

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Digging for Clams

Since I live in Ipswich and I enjoy steamer clams and the outdoors, it was easy for me to pick up clamming as a hobby. I went out earlier this month with some friends to Eagle Hill Cove in Ipswich. Pictured in the photos are Curtis Hermann (middle photo) and Marc Rogers.

When searching for soft shell clams, or steamers, all you need is a clam fork, basket, two-inch gauge, and shellfish permit from a coastal town. There is technique involved.

Begin by looking for holes in tidal flat areas and use the clam fork to dig down deep enough to get the clams. You need to start digging in an area about one or two feet in front of where you see clam holes, then dig forward about five or six inches at a time, until you have dug as deep as you can. Once you have dug a trench up to the area where you know the clams are present, be careful to dig a few inches behind the clam holes and straight down to avoid crushing the shells. You should then dig forward or sideways from your dug out area toward areas where you see more clam holes. Sounds simple, but it helps to go with someone who knows how your first time.

My ten year-old daughter is strong enough to dig for soft shell clams on her own with a small fork. Kids enjoy trying to dig, helping to measure the clams, and hunting for clams, sea worms and crabs.

Harvesting blue mussels is much easier – as simple as finding rocky areas along the coast and removing the mussels by hand and placing them in a bucket. My kids enjoy filling their buckets with mussels while exploring tidal pools looking for different species of crabs, sea stars, periwinkles, snails, and other sea creatures.

The Division of Marine Fisheries guidelines on shell fishing equipment and how to harvest clams blue mussels.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services offers tips for responsible digging techniques.

When you buy your shellfish permit, you will be given a map and instructions about how to make sure that shellfish areas are open before you go. In Ipswich, one phone call to a recorded message hotline lets you know if areas are closed. (Some shellfish areas close periodically due to bacterial pollution after significant rainfalls or due to red tide). Information about recreational shellfish regulations.

Enjoy Massachusetts’ shellfish resources!

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