“I want to do some clamming. Where can we go and how do we do it?”

Clamming is one of those activities that are fun to do in the heat of the
summer. You can get in the water and cool off, it keeps the kids occupied,
and if you are in a boat, it gives you something to do when the fish aren’t

The most important thing to know about clamming is that you need to do it at
low tide. We generally anchor the boat close to a sand bar during the last
of the outgoing tide and clam through the beginning of the incoming tide.
Clams start to “sign” when the tide starts to come in making it easier to
find the clams.

“What do you mean by “signing”?”

Clams are buried in the mud or sandy bottom an inch or so below surface. On
the incoming tide, the clam pulls in the fresh salt water to filter it for
food. When it releases the water after filtering, it is almost like it is
breathing under water. If you look closely in clear shallow water, you can
see them “breathing” or “signing.” The holes they make in the sand or mud
look like “key holes.” When you step near one you may see the sand and
water rushing out of the hole. It looks like “smoke” underwater. It takes a
“keen” eye, clear water and a lot of practice to “sign” clams. But if you
start “looking” rather than just “digging” you will save your back a lot of

“Do you have to be in the water to find clams?”

Most of the time you do. But occasionally you can find clams up on the edges
of a big sand bar on an extreme low tide, especially after a blow. Look for
the little “keyholes” on the edges of the sand bar where it slopes back into
the water on high tide. Clams are just like flounder; you find them at the
changes of bottom depth and edges of a drop off. Just imagine that during a
high incoming tide the clams are moving with the tide until they get to a
higher edge of a bar (underwater at high tide) and then they stop and bury

“I can’t see any keyholes!”

Well then, just get your clam rake and do it the old fashioned way of “blind
digging!” That’s the way most people do it anyway. When the water is dirty
or I am clamming in water where I cannot see the bottom I use the following
technique. I drag the clam rake behind me until I hear a “clink.” I then go
back and dig up the “clink” with the clam rake to see if it is a clam. Once
you find two or three clams you will probably find more. That’s when I get
serious and start raking in earnest and a little deeper in that same area to
see if there’s more!

“What kind of clam rake should I buy?”

There are several clam rakes on the market and all are fine. Some have
baskets if you are after the smaller clams. I, personally, like the American
made Down East brand of clam rakes. They don’t have a big basket, but the
tines are longer and sharper than other clam rakes. The rake head is forged
to the handle, rather than screwed on, so it will last a very long time. (I’
ve had my Down East clam rake for 15 years.) Import clam rakes can rust out
at the point where the rake head is screwed into the handle. If you have a
hard bottom and step on the head of the clam rake to drive it down, an
import clam rake can break in two. A Down East clam rake will take that

“Where do I put my clams?”

If you are close to the sand bar or your boat, you can simply carry the
clams to a 5-gallon bucket as you catch them. Always wash off the mud and
sand before putting them in the bucket. Others fashion an inter-tube with a
bushel basket in the center so they can float their clams with them. Still
others simply have a laundry basket or grocery basket and let it sit in
shallow water and place the clams in it as you go along. You can also buy
one of those net beach bags or chum bags and tie it your belt or waist and
put your clam in it. There is a neat product on the market called a Flo-Well
Live Well. It is a nylon bag with a Styrofoam round float, drawstring, and
rope. It was originally made for keeping live bait alive in areas where
there aren’t crabs to chew holes in the nylon! We have discovered over the
years in Ocean City that it makes a wonderful clam basket. You can tie it
around your waist while walking through the water and toss in the clams as
you clam along. I have had one for 15 years and it is still intact!

Once you get your clams to the boat or shore, you should rinse them in salt
water again, and place them in a bucket of fresh salt water to purge for a
couple hours. (Sometimes, on the incoming tide, sand gets into the flesh of
the clams. Purging the clams will take this out!)

“We have a boat. Where are the best places to clam?”

q The big sandbar just north of the Rt. 50 Bridge. (The northwest end
of it.) Stay away from the bird sanctuary signs. Clam offshore of them.

q The sand bar just offshore of Hooper’s Crab House.

q The sand bar just outside of Bahia Marina at 22nd St.

q The bay behind Assateague (the sandbar south and east of buoy #10 and
the bar near buoy #13)

q The bay behind Assateague south of the Verrazano Bridge

Floating Clam Basket

Where can we go clamming with a boat?

Public Clamming Areas

n Behind Convention Hall at 41st Street.

n National Park at Assateague Island (There are two clamming areas
inside the National Park.)

n State Park of Assateague Island. Park in the parking lot on the west
side of the Bridge going into Assateague and walk over the Bridge and clam
on the east side (Sorry, there’s no parking on the east side.

n Holt’s Landing in the Delaware Seashore State Park. Go West on Route
26 and go through Ocean View and Millville. The next town is Clarksville.
Follow the signs for Holt’s Landing.

n Indian River. Park on the side of the road on the South side of the
Indian River Bridge and walk across the marsh. Good clamming, but quite a

n Cape Henelopen. Part of the Delaware Seashore State Park.

Clamming is lots of fun but be careful. There are sharp shells, crabs,
horseshoe crabs, and unfortunately, sometimes trash and old crab traps in
the water. Always wear tennis shoes or water shoes and watch out for
jellyfish. If the jellyfish are prevalent, you may need to wear long pants.
Some people break out from mites in the hot water close to the sand bars
that are similar to chiggers. Just to be on the safe side, spray your feet
and ankles with bug spray. (I wear a pair of old tennis shoes and an old
pair of socks when clamming.)

Clams are great to eat. The larger ones you need to chop or grind to make
chowder, fritters or stuffed clams. The smaller ones you can steam or make
clam casino. I wouldn’t eat raw clams in the heat of the summer.

“How long is clamming season?”

All year long! Even in the winter, you can catch clams. Of course, then you
want to trade the tennis shoes for a pair on insulated chest waders!

Good clamming….

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 18:09