Clam catching

Almost anyone with a rake, a shovel or even bare hands, can dig up softshell clams or
littlenecks on a sandbar or in shallow water; but bigger clams are gathered by commercial
fisherman with "hydraulic dredges" towed by fishing boats. This technique is employed in
Mid-Atlantic and New England waters to harvest surf clams and ocean quohogs.



The surf clam/ocean quahog fishery was one of the first in the United States to be managed
by individual transferable quotas (ITQs). The right to catch a certain number of clams each
year is given to each member of the fishery depending on his prior performance in the fishery.
Individuals who own rights to harvest these clams may sell or lease these rights to others.

The dredge, a large steel construction, is dragged along the bottom by the clam boat. A large pump on the boat pumps sea water through a large hose to a manifold on the front of the dredge. The manifold jets the water into the sand, temporarily fluidizing it and allowing the dredge to pass through. Due to the carefully set spacing of the bars making up the body of the dredge most of the smaller clams and other organisms pass through, the larger clams being retained.



While the impact of hydraulic dredges on the bottom at first glance seems severe, the
mechanical restrictions that the gear imposes - hose length, pumping pressure, etc. - limits their use to shallow water. The sandy bottom environments in these areas are normally exposed to far greater perturbations during winter storms and take such disturbances in stride.  (from www.FishingNJ.org )

Photos by N. Stope show a hydraulic dredge filled with surf clams being hauled on board, and clam sorting, measuring and storage in wire "cages." Artwork was provided by New Jersey Scuba Diver website, www.njscuba.net and www.FishingNJ.org . We thank them very much.

Clamming supplies



and some more



Book with help for catching

Quahogs are found in the top 3 inches of sandy or sand-and-mud bottoms, usually below the low-tide line. It's easier to dig for them at low tide.



Digging your own quahogs requires little or no
equipment. One popular method is "treading":
Simply probe the bottom with your foot until
you feel a quahog, then reach down and pull it
up with your hand.

Alternatively, you may use a clam rake  A clam
rake resembles a garden rake, but the tines
are longer and the handle is shorter, and
sometimes there's a built-in collection basket.
Drag the rake through the bottom until you
feel a scraping, then push the rake in deeper
and pull it toward you and upwards to harvest
the quahogs. Be sure to wear old shoes or
sneakers to protect your feet.

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