Spring is a great time to explore shallow coastal bays in search of quahog clams. These delicious shellfish can be caught year round and in most states do not require a license or any specialized gear.
Not much is required to catch clams except a boat or kayak, rake and a mesh bag or bucket. Some clammers use only a gardener's hand rake, while others use a long handled potato rake or a new england style clam digger.
One of the easiest methods is to paddle out and locate a suitable area where flats are exposed at low tide. After stowing the kayak in high ground, clammers fan out and look for holes in the bottom which indicate a clam below. These holes, called "clam signs", can be found from the waterline out to depths of 6-10 inches.
Clam breathing holes are not always easy to spot, with success depending on weather, tides and seasonal factors. Breathing holes may appear to be "keyhole" shaped, or look more like a small anthill. Spring is a good time to enjoy this activity because clams "sign" better during cooler weather. Also, the water is usually clearer in winter or spring, allowing clammers to see the bottom better.
Several organisms live in the sand or mud and make holes. For clammers, learning to identify which holes indicate a clam becomes an art form in itself. to complicate matters, not all clams produce the classic keyhole shaped breathing hole and clams are not always found directly below the hole.
In most areas, this method of clamming happens fast. Kayakers must time their trips to coincide with low tides. The best clamming usually occurs during the last hour or less of the outgoing. As the tide turns and begins to flow in, clams are much harder to detect.
Occasionally, clams are so abundant that no signing is required, clammers simply rake areas blindly, feeling for a thump as they rake thru the sand.This type of clamming is best done in warm weather, when kayaks can anchor, hop in and work an area of water that is more than ankle deep.