Quahogging on the Block
Quahog. Along with being Rhode Island’s state shellfish it’s also the town from Family Guy, one of Narragansett Beer’s mascots, and a word that non-New Englanders have a really hard time saying. The “official” name for the bivalve is the hard clam but, luckily, someone thought the using the Narragansett word for it would be much more interesting.
You’ve seen them at restaurants and markets, but have you ever caught a live one yourself? Well, for those out there who want to take a stab at it, this blog will give you the very basics of recreational quahogging on Block Island. Please note that this is not an official guide! Before you go out there and start digging, please refer to the State of Rhode Island and Block Island’s shellfishing websites for important rules and regulations.
Before You Start
Don’t rush out to the shore just yet! First you need to make sure you need a permit to start digging on the ocean facing shores of the island. If you’re a RI resident, you don’t need a license to harvest. If you’re from out of state and over 12 years old, you will need to obtain a once-a-year, 14 day license to harvest which will run you $11.
The one area that has special permitting on Block Island is Great Salt Pond. Whether you’re an island resident, Rhode Islander or out-of-state visitor, paid permits are required to harvest on the pond. License rates range from $10-$80 depending on time of year, resident status, and special considerations.
There are also areas where you can and cannot harvest on the island. The waters around Pebbly Beach and the entire area of Old Harbor are restricted to shellfishing. Periodically, there are also area closures due to environmental conditions. Please check the RI shellfishing DEM site for the most up to date information and closures before heading out.
Do’s & Don’ts
So, you’ve got your permit and you got your location, but there are a few more things you need to know before you start. Harvesting can only be done between sunrise and sunset. Sorry night owls! Also, recreational shellfishers need to do their digging the old fashion way. No scuba diving or mechanical devices allowed! And don’t think about trying to make a profit with your catch. Any quahogs caught recreationally are for personal use only and cannot be sold.
Also, there are certain sizes and quantities of quahogs to are allowed to grab. Quahogs need to have a least a 1” shell thickness to be harvested. You measure that distance from the hinged part of the clam. You are only allowed to collect a peck of quahogs daily. Think about two sandcastle buckets full.
Rakes & Buckets
Now that you’re up to code and you know the rules, it’s time to get digging! You’ll need a few supplies to start. A clamming rake is always useful. It resembles a wide tooth, gardening rake with a backet attached. To make sure you’re harvesting the correct size and quantity of quahogs, you can pick up specialized clam sizing gauges and peck sized clam buckets. However, if you want to be a bit more low key with the whole operation, you can DIY the whole thing by using a garden rake or your feet to dig, a ruler to measure and a couple of smaller baskets to hold your clams.
The best time to go quahogging is just before low tide when they’re just below the sand surface. Look around for any depressions in the sand. These are telltale signs that a clam has buried itself there. If you tap around the area and sand or water pops out the that spot even better! Dig a little bit at the spot with your foot or hands and then rake the sand and hole you’re created. If you’ve found a quahog, clean it off, measure, and put it in your basket. Always remember to refill your hole! Try to leave things like you found them. Keep going until hat basket is filled!
Hopefully with these tips, you’ve found a new activity that you can do on Block Island! Remember to always clean those quahogs well and appropriately store them. Now all you’ll have to figure out is if you want to steam them, cook a chowder, or make some delicious stuffies! The world is your Quahog!
Get Digging and Sail Away…