Steamer Clams…some say this is the best seafood one can eat…when you think about it, who cares? The fun is in the way you spend the day…digging in the mud, hunting for buried treasures, the thrill of the catch and the memories you make. The clams you steam over the campfire in the afternoon and eat with lots of melted butter are just the cherry on the top of the sundae…so to speak.
Digging for clams is easy…choose a day when the breezes are warm, the tide is conducive to your vacation schedule and you feel like pretending to be being productive.
Anywhere in Maine you need a license from the town hall and someone to tell you where the local flats are open. In Searsport, you can buy a 3 day recreational license for a mere $15 (granting the rights to dig for one peck of clams each day) and head out to the flats on Sears Island for a day of digging in the mud and wading in the water…miles of undeveloped shore land waiting for you to explore! How much is a peck of clams? 1/4 quarter of a bushel or approximately 12 pounds of Maine’s most famous bivalves.
Go to the clam flats on a falling tide, at low tide or at the earlier stages of the incoming tide. Then, just walk and look for holes in the mud. The holes will typically be the same circumference as your index finger. There is a clam down there! You can use a rake, but in our gravely sand, a trowel may be more useful. Your hands will do, but be sure to wear gloves. Another great tool is a plunger… for interesting conversation, look along the beach for other diggers and see their favorite tool…you’ll hear dozens of opinions.
Tell tale sign that there’s a clam about a foot into the sand
Plunge, rake or dig a hole with your hands about a foot deep. Be careful not to break the clam and very careful not to cut your finger when reaching down to extract the clam from its hole. The top edges of the clam are sharp, so grab carefully (think paper cut from a cardboard box, rubbed liberally with salt).
After finding and digging your first few clams you’ll start to see the air holes everywhere. Not to create too much pressure, but your goal is to harvest enough for dinner before the tide floods the flats.
The prize at the bottom of the hole. Limit for the day is one peck (almost two gallons or 15 lbs.)
Once you have them safely in your clam hod or bucket, you’ll want to let them soak in a liberal amount of seawater with a handful of cornmeal. The cornmeal is eaten by the clams and causes them to disgorge the sand inside the shell. It seems to me you should do this at least twice before cooking them.
During the summer, sign up in the office to take a trip to Sears Island on Sunday at low tide for a personal demonstration and orientation of clamming on the island. Steve will talk about the importance of sustainable harvesting practices and point out several trails that wind through the 950 uninhabited acres of the island. If you’d like to dig yourself, come by the office on a weekday and we’ll help you to arrange a license…it’s easy and inexpensive.
Read more about clamming on the coast of Maine