In search of the elusive clam

Clams are a wonderfully abundant, high energy and delicious food source easy to find for sea kayakers. But beware – good clam beaches are kept as secret by foragers as a mushroomer’s most productive hidden grassy knoll.

One of the joys of kayak expeditions to remote wilderness coasts and islands is the year round access to fresh seafood of one sort or another. And precious few sources of protein are as inexpensive and abundant as ocean-fresh* seafood.

Although certain equipment will make the task of digging for clams easier, it is possible find them with bare hands so the complications and expenses of sport fishing can be avoided.

The humble soft-shell clam can be dug and eaten ocean-fresh any time of the year. And, perhaps best of all, that digging can be done with little or no special equipment. So, to enjoy a year-round supply of fresh seafood all you need is

a). One remote sandy beach
b). One local tide chart
3). One pair of wellies
d) One sturdy spade
e) One rake or dowel
f). One bucket

Clam gigging tips

These colourful underwater shellfish live in the mud and sand seabed of shallow seawaters where they burrow under the seabed surface to filter seawater for their food. There are a few factors to consider that will contribute to a great clam harvest.

Low tide

The best time to go clam digging is just an hour before or at low tide so obtaining local tide information and a tide table for the area you plan to dig in is advised.

Clam digging locations

Many a local has a preferred clam beach so a good starting point is to ask. Like mushroom pickers they can be territorial and hesitant to part with their knowledge but it’s always worth trying.

Look for muddy and sandy low tide locations and avoid rocky shores since clams cannot burrow here. Although clams can easily be found in muddy, freshwater or saltwater areas, you do need to do a little work to dig them. Once you locate one clam it is likely there will be many more in the same area as clams prefer to be in groups close to each other.

Clam nutrition

Nutritionally, clams fall into the low-fat/medium-protein category when compared to traditional high-protein alternatives. For example, in 100 grams of clam meat (typically four large-or nine small-clams) you’ll find 14 grams of protein and one gram of fat while in the same amount of sirloin steak you’ll find 23 grams of protein saturated with a full 32 grams of fat.

Clam protein is of higher quality and more easily digested than the beef protein.

Know the regulations

It is important to be familiar with the regulations governing clam digging in the area you wish dig. Highly organised gangs run by gang masters, target shellfish beds in England, Wales and Scotland at night at low tide. Gangs in transit vans and 4x4s park on beaches and dig for the lucrative molluscs storing them in chill boxes for delivery to waiting traders who sell to restaurants, pubs, markets, caterers and wholesalers.

The Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA) was set up following the Morecombe Bay tragedy where 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned and the prosecution of two further gangs in Scotland and England: one using Romanian immigrants on Sky and the other Chinese workers on the Dee Estuary. These regulations include minimum catch sizes for clams, periods when clam digging is allowed and the kind of equipment permissible. Clamming in some areas is forbidden entirely due to harmful bacteria local to the area.

So, to avoid sharing a cell with a, charming I’m sure, but fish smelling Romanian –know your local regulations.

* the term fresh is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish means days old so when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter be ready to ask where it is from and how many days ago your fish was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore been forced to make a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – Ocean-fresh. Simply put, it means caught same-day.

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