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How to Dig Clams, Clam Digging Tips, Best Way To Dig Clams, Clam Pumps And Clam Digging Tools


Learning how to dig for clams is pretty simple.  Clam digging for horseneck clams, digging for Washington clams, digging soft shell clams, and digging for geoduck clams is very similar.  Learning to dig for clams of these varieties is the types of clam digging discussed in this clam digging article.  Digging cockle clams and razor clams is done a little different as they live more on the open gravely and sandy beaches, while horse neck clams, geoduck clams, Washington clams, and soft-shell clams are more in the backwater mud flats in bays along the ocean.  Digging clams is fun for the whole family and another great thing to do if you are at the ocean abalone diving or fishing.  Learning how to dig clams just takes a little practice at finding clams to dig and the right tools, such as a clam pump that you can build yourself, and learning the best way to dig clams.  This article on how to dig horseneck clams, and how to dig clams found in the same area as horsenecks,  should give you a good clam digging start.  If you like clams, you probably would like mussels as well (or want them as bait if your are fishing from the shore) so don't miss the article here on getting mussels.
When learning how to dig clams, finding clams to dig is the first place to start.  Find a bay that is close to your area where it is a know clam digging area.  The folks at the local bait shop can usually tell you where the best clam digging places in your area are.  You can also check with your local fish and game department and get help finding the best spots for clam digging near you.  While you are checking with them, you can find the clam digging regulations and clam limits for the different types of clams as well.  We all know that these change as often as I change my underwear (maybe more often!) so don’t rely on what someone tells you.  

The best time to dig clams is when there is a very low tide, preferably a “minus” tide.  You can find those on any good tide table like the link to the good tide table found here on this site’s main page.  You will get to the clam digging location early as the tide comes in as fast as it goes out and you have work to do.  If you are digging clams with a clam pump, you will start digging clams much earlier as I explain below.

Clam digging requires the proper clam digging tools.  Many folks use a shovel for digging horse neck clams but the best way to dig horse neck clams and the best way to dig clams –period- is by using a clam pump.  There is an excellent article here on Fishnfools in Capt. Garry’s Fishing Blogs about how to build a clam pump that you can read.  You can also use a shovel to dig clams like most people do, but it is a lot of work!  Using a shovel to dig clams is not a science.  You find them and dig down to them.  They do not “run” from you, they simply suck their neck down into their hole a foot or more.  With a clam pump, you suck up water and blow the sand and mud out of the way until you get too them.  This is explained fully in the clam digging article about building a clam pump so I won’t elaborate on it here.

Finding clams to dig when you are looking for clams on a mud flat is the trick.  It is easy to do once you learn how to spot clam “nostrils” in the mud and sand.  I call them nostrils as I picture the clam neck as a big nose with two nostrils in the end of it for breathing.  In fact, this is their vent that is used for feeding and many other functions.  Sometimes you can actually see the two holes in a little mound or indention or other irregularity in the sand but often, you just see the irregularity.  The trick is to shove your finger in each suspect clam hole and see if you feel the slimy little bugger and feel him pull his neck down away from you.  A lot of things make irregularities in the sand and trust me, you don’t want to dig and work your butt off for nothing so make sure it is a clam.

When using a clam pump, finding clams to dig is done as the tide goes out in areas that still have a few inches of water over them so you can have water to suck up and blow out to make the clam pump work.  You follow the water out as the tide goes out until it is all the way out.  By that time, with a pump, everyone should have their limits! If you are digging clams with a shovel, you find clams for digging where it is high and dry, so to speak, as you don’t want to have to dig in water!  You will be beginning to clam dig when the clam diggers using clam pumps are heading back home.  

There is nothing complicated about digging clams with a shovel.  Just find the clam and start digging.  The clams are usually pretty abundant so try to find a spot where there are many clam nostrils sticking up close together so when you dig a hole, you get several out of it.  More often than not, when you are digging clams with a shovel you will find several in the same hole whether you saw the clam sign of several or not.  Even with a clam pump, when you make a hole, you feel around in it for a second or even third clam.  Some folks us a big plastic pipe that is big enough for a person to put their upper body in to so as they dig, they push the pipe down to keep it from caving in.  These people are really working and sweaty and muddy, and some of my best clam pump sales come from these folks for record prices!!  Also, you can have some great red crab catching on the edges of the mud flats in about 3 to 4 feet of water.  You find them with your feet and carefully pull them out of the mud and put them in a bucket.  You don't have to be careful if you don't mind getting your fingers pinched half off!

If you are going clam digging, make sure you read all the rules carefully.  Most of the time each person has to carry their own clams in a separate bag or bucket than the others and often you are required to keep the first clams you get and not “trade up” for larger ones.  

So now that you know how to dig clams, go clam digging and make some fried clam strips, clam sushi, and some clam chowder (both New England and Manhattan of course!).  Post your clamming story in our fishing forumshere on Fishnfools along with your clamming pictures.  Enjoy the many other fishing articles here and have fun clam digging my friends!
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