Fishing Shellfish

Coastal Clamming

Life is pretty sweet for clammers. Gaper Clam, Butter Clam, Cockle, Littleneck, Softshell, Geoduck and Purple Varnish Clams lay just beneath the sandy surface of West Coast waters. Although the variety may be overwhelming to a first-time clammer, the good news is that all of these species make excellent eating. Clamming can be as nuanced as any outdoor pursuit, but keying in on a just a couple of the West Coast’s mainstay mollusks is the way to go if you’re looking to get your feet wet.

For starters, try going after going after purple varnish clams. They are like the chanterelle mushrooms of the ocean, in that they are abundant and when you find one, you find many. Purple varnish clams are located to depths of 14 inches below the surface of the sand and are approximately 1/8 inch in diameter. As with all clams, the best time to go after them is low tide. Look for multiple breathing holes in the sand at low tide, and start digging. Clam guns and rakes work well for different species; however good old-fashioned shovels and elbow grease are all that is needed for the Purple Varnish.

Soft shell clams are a great score, they are a fun challenge and their necks taste great with butter and salt. They can be steamed, fried, or chowdered-up. When you find the oblong breathing hole that a softshell clam leaves, try stomping your foot nearbye. Often times the clam will squirt a water jet out as it is retracting its neck. Then, try using a dowling stick (an old arrow shaft works well), slide it down the hole until you reach the body of the clam. Carefully dig around the clam, and harvest it from an adjacent side. These clams have a tendency to break when being harvested too roughly, so stay patient. Make sure to place them carefully in your bucket or net, and don’t forget to purge your clams before cooking.

And speaking of cooking, here’s our no-nonsense clam chowder recipe that’s destined to have everyone at the dinner table fat and happy.


Clam Chowder Recipe:

12 ounces fresh clam

1 cup water

2 cups half & half

1/3 cup flour

3 teaspoons chicken bouillon

3 small potatoes cubed

2 garlic cloves minced

1 large onion grated

5 pieces of bacon

ΒΌ teaspoon pepper

14 teaspoons salt

Cook bacon until crispy, dab with a paper towel. In a large pot, sautΓ© the onion and garlic until brown. Add all other ingredients to the pot except for clams, the flour, and the half & half. Cook on medium heat for ten minutes. Put the half & half in a small bowl, sift your flour into the half and half and stir with a whisk until there are no clumps. Slowly pour small bowl into the pot. Cook until it all thickens. Add clams. Cook for another 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Add bacon and serve.

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