Hen clams are about the size of your palm and you can even dig them up (though slightly painfully) without a rake on the beach or they are on the ocean floor if you feel like snorkeling out a bit.


Clams–they are quite tasty and there are many places to eat them on MDI. However if you want to DIY, there are opportunities right here on Mount Desert Island.

Besides getting your own dinner, clamming can be a great family activity. Check out our Complete Guide To Clamming below and you will find that going clamflat-to-table can be much easier than farm-to-table.

Getting Started

A rake makes things way easier though when I went, I just looked for bubbles on the surface of the sand and dug with a clamshell I found and my bare hands.

The License 

The first thing you need to know about clamming is that in most towns you need a license. For instance, Bar Harbor requires one. To get a license application for a Bar Harbor clamming license, click here: https://www.barharbormaine.gov/DocumentCenter/View/8/Shellfish-License-Application

Note: you’ll see in the Bar Harbor section of the link that this licence is only necessary for soft shelled clams. These photos are of hen clamming, which doesn’t actually require a license in Bar Harbor.

For other towns: https://www.maine.gov/dmr/shellfish-sanitation-management/programs/municipal/ordinances/towninfo.html

Places Where Clamming Is Allowed 

You will also want to make sure you are not trespassing on private property or in a closed area. Sometimes the state or town has closed off an area. This is largely because they are polluted and so the government tries to prevent polluted clams from entering the market and getting consumers sick. Typically there will be signage indicating a closed area or private property. However, you can get confirmation if an area is closed or not through one of these following avenues:

You can call the office of the Shellfish Warden who oversees MDI: (207) 667-3373.

You can also call the Clam/Shellfish Closures and Hotline: 1 (800) 232-4733.

Another place for updated information is the State of Maine Department of Marine Resources website: https://www.maine.gov/dmr/

What’s Next?

Now that you have the legal matters out of the way, the right equipment will really help. There are a lot of different ways to go clamming and variations on the equipment. But here we have broken it down into simple terms.

The Equipment 

Boots: If you are not going out far, good regular, knee-high rubber work boots will do. However, if you are going deeper out you will need hip waders to keep you dry or just clothing you’d swim in. Most people walk on the shore at low tide to get clams but you can also use a mask and snorkel right offshore if you prefer to look underwater.

A Hoe: A lot of clammers will just use a regular, basic garden hoe. There are also specific clam shovels and rakes depending upon the area you are in, how far you are going out, what works best for you, and how much you want to spend.

Clam Basket:  There are plenty of clam baskets around made out of wire or galvanized steel in addition to other materials. Some clammers use a hod, which is a ½ bushel basket, typically out of wood or aluminum.  But you can also use a bucket with holes in it. This is where your found clams will go.

Two-Inch Clam Ring: If looking for soft shell clams, this ensures that the clams are at least two inches in diameter at the longest part of their shell. You cannot take clams that are less than two inches. This ensures people can enjoy clamming–and clams, for years to come. (I suppose if you were going just one time and didn’t want to invest, you could just bring a ruler and measure that way!)

Super low tide = great clamming


Where Can I Get This Equipment?

So you understand what equipment you need, but where can you get it locally? There are several options.

Downeast Fishing Gear, just off the island in Trenton, has all the gear you will need. It is a one-stop shop. However if you would like to stay on MDI, you can might some of the gear at different places are the island.

For rakes and buckets, you can go to Paradis True Value Hardware in Bar Harbor.

For hoes you can typically go to Northeast Harbor’s FT Brown’s. 

Mc Eachern & Hutchins Hardware in Southwest Harbor also carries equipment at times too (but not all the time).

If you got all of this equipment on-island and just needed the boots for clamming, a good place is Wiley’s Sports Center, the LL Bean outlet, or Reny’s which are all in Ellsworth.

The Dig On Clamming

Now you have all the necessary tools to get ready, here are the other FAQs.

When Is Clamming Season?  Year-round.

What Is The Best Time Of Day To Go Clamming?  Low Tide. Tide charts for MDI can be found here: https://www.weatherforyou.com/reports/index.php?forecast=tides&place=bar%20harbor&state=me

How Do I Find Clams? It is not that hard. Clams are not great at hide and seek. You simply take a stroll on the flats and look for holes. During high-tide the clams go to the top of these holes to feed from the water. During low-tide they go to the bottom. These holes can be up to a foot deep.  You also will see some bubbles on the surface of the sand, meaning there is something breathing below.

But How I Get The Clams? Rather than digging right on top of the hole, you will want to start next to the hole. This is for two main reasons: 1) You don’t want to damage the shell of the clam and 2) the top of the clam is sharp and you don’t want to cut your hand.

How Do I Know When I Have Enough Clams? When you have gotten one peck of clams–that is the most you are allowed in one day.

How Much Is A Peck? It is about two gallons and about 15 pounds for hard shell clams and 12.5 pounds for soft shell clams.

Are there different kinds of clams? The three we know about are soft shelled clams (what you get when you order ‘steamers’ at a restaurant), hen clams (the large ones about the size of your palm), and razor clams (shaped like thin rectangles. The razor clams dig fast so you should probably either go with the hen clams or steamer clams.

Now That You Have Your Peck Of Clams, What Do You Do?

Sort Them

You only want to use clams that don’t have damaged shells. So you will look through your clams and remove those that have damaged shells.

Clean Them

There are a number of thoughts and blogs on cleaning clams–almost all are variations of soaking them in water. Here is a good, step-by-step on how to clean clams: https://www.justonecookbook.com/how-to-degrit-clams/

Prepare Them

There are many great ways to Prepare Clams.  Here are some recipes that we really like!

Baked Clams Oreganata

Over Roasted Clams With Herb Butter

Buttery Garlic Steamed Clams

Baked Clams with Garlicky Breadcrumbs

Linguine with Herb Broth and Clams

Portuguese Steamed Clams

Spicy Spanish Clams

Eat Them

We think you will be able to figure this part out. But if you need a little help: https://www.wikihow.com/Eat-Clams


Congratulations, you’re a clammer now! Enjoy this very Downeast Maine but very tasty experience for yourself!

2 comments on “Your Complete Guide To Clamming On MDI

  • You really can’t beat a good pair of waders when it comes to clamming. It allows you to easily venture into the deeper water without constantly worrying about a sneaky tide coming up and soaking your boots. Also a clam gun or clam rake is much more effective (and easier to use physically) than a shovel or a hoe like the article recommends. A hoe will work in a pinch though, but if you want a good serious long-term clamming tool then you should really look into a specially designed fork that comes with a basket so you don’t lose your catch.

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