Clamming Strategies

Today was an extreme tide — a spring tide I believe — so there was but one thing to do and that was clam.

March clamming is clean clamming — the water is clear, the nitrogen levels are low, the danger from red tide, fecal coliform, hepatitis, vibro and any other alimentary tract threatening clam induced illness is next to nil. It is also open clamming, meaning the department of natural resources hasn’t closed the back waters yet and its open season until May 1 for those spots that are off limits in the summer.

The old saw about only eating clams in a month with an “R” in it, is pretty much a good rule of thumb. I’ll clam into June, but July and August, even September clams … I pass.

This isn’t because of any recent threat to the clams, or any degradation in water quality, it’s just warm water clams don’t seem to taste as well as the cold water kind.

With new clam licenses in hand, and my son Fisher in his first pair of waders, we launched the boat and put-putted across the harbor to the island where we saw a baby harbor seal sunning itself on the beach. Well meaning people sometimes call the dog catcher or the ASPCA to say such beached seals are in distress, but usually they are not, and are just a new thing for people to deal with since they had all but vanished from our beaches before the passage of the marine mammal protection act. Trying to “help” a beached baby seal is evidently a very dumb idea, as the suckers are complete ingrates and will try to take your fingers off.

We dug our limit in quahogs (pronounced “co-hawgs”) with rakes, then hand dug our limit in steamers (aka, “soft-shelled” clams). Fisher was good with the bull rake, and took a turn with my Ribb rake, the best clam rake on the planet. We focused on cherrystones and littlenecks (referring to the relative size of the quahogs) for eating raw on the half-shell and broiling into Clams Casino. If I had been in a chowder mood then we would have focused on … chowder clams — big quahogs that generally see their shells turned into ashtrays. Extra-large steamers are known as “chokers.”

We then went to the super-secret wild oyster spot. This is a very big deal as oysters are delicacies (Cotuit oysters are world renowned, and indeed, are considered the best there are by true gourmands) and wild oysters, as opposed to farmed ones, are very, very hard to find. But we found them. Lots of them. Getting to them was a challenge as the extra-low tide exposed the extra-treacherous mud. This is Fisher reenacting the quicksand scene from Wages of Fear.

As we left, I had to take a picture of my favorite piece of rich people insanity, the security camera disguised as a bird house..

So … Clams Casino, cherrystones, and oysters on the half-shell tonight. Fried clams tomorrow night after the steamers have had a night to “de-sand” themselves.