A popular summer activity enjoyed by many throughout the area is no doubt clamming. You can do it from shore or you can anchor up a boat in the shallows and hop off to search for those northern quahogs. Some like to use the good old-fashioned method of feeling for clams with the heels of their feet in the soft sand, while others like to employ the use of a scratch rake to find the little morsels. I was always a fan of using the rake but both methods can be very effective. Clamming is something you can also do with friends and besides, being in the water on a hot summer day is a good way to stay cool in the summer sun.
But before you do head out clamming with friends, family or on your own, know that local clamming laws do exist and they may vary depending on the area that you’re clamming. Yes, those who have been clamming before have been in the situation when you go for a couple of hours and fill up the basket just to realize you have no idea how many you acquired so far. The recreational limit per person, per day is 100 clams. This is quite a few and if you have two or three friends with you, it’s more than enough. Just be mindful of this limit and keep only what you think you will consume. This precious resource is vulnerable since clams can’t just get up and swim away.
Aside from the bag limit on hard clams, a 1-inch size limit is also in effect. The DEC defines this as 1 inch across the hinge of the clam (See Figure 1). Don’t get this confused with the actual shell width of the clam or you will be keeping undersized clams. Some companies sell clam gauges to help take this measurement or you can make a gauge if you want to get fancy. The tines of most rakes sold for this type of clamming are spaced 1 inch which helps sort out the shorts, too.
Aside from the limits on hard clams, the DEC also sets zone restrictions around the island. If you refer to https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/103483.html you can take note of the closures in the areas that you might go clamming. These areas are broken down into uncertified (closed) and seasonally uncertified (closed for a portion of the year) areas. The zones do change based on water quality samples that the DEC takes from time to time, but, for the most part the zones in red always stay closed while the zones in blue will open up again during the colder months. Every now and then the DEC closes areas temporarily due to storms and high rainfall as well.
This information will change throughout the year and the best way to stay on top of clamming regulations and restrictions for your area is to save this link: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/345.html to your favorites and check it before you head out.
Crack a cold drink, call up some friends and grab a rake. Summer clamming has been a traditional activity for many over the years to spend alongside others. Enjoy your bounty of the bay raw, baked or in a sauce. Practice sustainability and follow the rules in the process so that others can enjoy this tradition as well.