New Jersey Clamming for Quahogs

Posted 3/20/06
By Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Editor

It was a warmer than usual March day when we pulled up to the spot I can't disclose, ready for our new adventure.

We put on boots, grabbed various, primitive looking tools and a bucket with holes in the bottom and started a quarter mile trek down a narrow path along the edge of the salt marsh.

We knew we were at the right spot when the path ended and the salt water inlet began.

That's when we started raking.

Clamming is simplicity itself.

You dig through heavy, mucky salt water soaked banks, looking for unsuspecting clams just a couple of inches below the surface.

You need no special talents or knowledge.

Our tool of choice was a clam rake. It has longer tines than a regular garden rake, so it can dig deeper into the mucky bottom.

When we felt a hard clam just below the surface, we'd dig deeper and scoop up our catch.

Slowly, our little bucket with the holes in the bottom started filling up with clams.

Another way to go after clams is by getting down on all fours and using a shorter clam digger.

Still another way to go clamming is mushing. Our friend Pat loves this method, squiggling through the muck, using her hands and feet to feel the clams below.

Where to go Clamming

Clamming in South Jersey is mostly a back-bay activity.

The best places to find these delicacies are tidal flats that are exposed at low tide and very shallow waters that remain covered by the lowest tides.

Almost any mud flat will have clams just below the surface, but not all can be harvested.

Before you set foot onto a tidal flat, you need a license from the New Jersey Shellfisheries Bureau. The cost is $10 for the year. You can get it online or at some local fishing shops.

Along with your license, you'll receive a map of the allowed areas open for clamming.

When to go Clamming

The clamming season varies from one bay and inlet to another. Some beds are completely closed. Others are open for just six months.

Clamming can be done only between sunrise and sunset and never on Sunday. Be sure to check with the Shellfisheries Bureau before venturing out.


Clams must be one and a half inches across to be legal, so we were careful to measure and throw back the smaller ones. They'll be ready in another year or two.

Our license allowed us to catch up to 150 clams per person in one outing.

We were thrilled to come home with just over two dozen hard clams.

These delicacies are smaller and sweeter than surf clams in the ocean.

Once you’ve collected your clams, take good care of them. Purging the clams in clean water for a couple of hours will leave them grit free. Try to eat them as soon as possible.

What I like most about clamming is the fact that you can always catch some clams, no matter what the season.

The other thing I like is eating them.

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