Clam fishing has a 100% success rate, even with minimal preparation

We Mainers love our independence. Whether it’s hunting, fishing or gardening, we take great pride in putting food on the table ourselves and sharing that special meal with our loved ones.

Bangor Daily News Outdoors contributor Christi Holmes says clams you dig yourself taste better. Credit: Courtesy of Christi Holmes

Come in to dig clams.

Unlike hunting and fishing, with a little research, minimal gear, and a strong back, there’s a 100% chance you’ll come home with your prey.

And unlike gardening, no planting, watering or weeding is necessary. Go straight to harvest.

I love to dig. It gets me out all year round, it’s good exercise and I find some cool stuff on the mudflats. Last spring the flats were full of mating horseshoe crabs, something I’ve never seen grow in the East because their northernmost population is in Franklin. Lately, I’ve been seeing baby horseshoe crabs!

A sore back and clams you dug yourself taste better – that’s science. Steamed clams are one of my all-time favorite foods, and I save a lot of money digging them instead of buying them. Clams are also extremely nutritious (not to mention buttery here). They are a lean source of protein with far fewer calories than beef. Clams contain negligible amounts of fat and carbohydrates and contain extremely high amounts of vitamin B12 and iron. They are even moderately rich in vitamin C.

Now that I’ve convinced you to try the clam, here are some tips.

You will need a rake, boots and a bucket. Contact the city office where you want to dig and inquire about a recreational license (or head to Wolf’s Neck State Park in Freeport where your entry fee allows you to dig one peak per day). Most cities issue one- or three-day permits that allow the permit holder to dig one peak (2.3 gallons) per day.

Left to right: Bangor Daily News Outdoors contributor Christi Holmes (right) often goes out with her friend Meg DiMauro. Two horseshoe crabs mate during a low spring tide. Credit: Courtesy of Christi Courtesy of Mathew Trogner

Ask for the coordinates of the shell keeper in town and find out the exact places to dig. Always check the Department of Marine Resources website on Remediation and Shellfish Management or call their hotline (800-232-4733) to check for closures in the area before digging.

Arrive at low tide and look for small straw-sized holes in the mud. At high tide, clams stretch their necks to the surface to eat and breathe. At low tide, the clam retracted its neck and created a hole. Find a spot with a good number of holes and start turning the mud over (don’t really dig).

Take it slow and be gentle as you take the hit. Touch with your fingers and look for necks or water jets. Once your hole is at least a foot deep, dig it wider by digging the sides. Look for clams as you dig your larger hole. When you find a clam, confirm it is not broken, at least 2 inches in size, and a live clam (not a mud clam, an empty shell full of mud)! Inevitably, a slime clam always finds its way home with me.

A young horseshoe crab is among the creatures you can see digging for clams on the coast of Maine. Bangor Daily News Outdoors contributor Christi Holmes said clam digging allows you to enjoy nature and bring dinner home. Credit: Courtesy of Christi Holmes

Once you’ve got your beak, or you’re covered in mud and you’ve had enough, go home, give them a good rinse, and enjoy!