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Chesapeake Bay Workboats
The Development of the Deadrise Workboat
Harvesting the Bounty
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Harvesting the Bounty

Soft and Hard Clams

Raking in Shallow Water
Raking in Shallow Water
Soft shell clams coming up on conveyer belt. A bottom dredging technique, 1957
Soft shell clams coming up on conveyer belt. A bottom dredging technique, 1957
Claming in a dory off Chincoteague, Virginia
Claming in a dory off Chincoteague, Virginia
The soft clam is one the most common varieties harvested in the Chesapeake Bay. This clam can grow to five inches across but the legal harvest limit is two inches across. The shell is soft and can be crushed with your fingers. The clams live in mud or sand and they are exposed in low tides. They are found from Labrador to North Carolina and are called by different names including "piss-clam," "long-neck clam," "steamer," "Ispwich clam," and "belly clam."

Soft shell clamming off of Island Creek, Maryland, 1957
Soft shell clamming off of Island Creek, Maryland, 1957
Claming with a dredge
Claming with a dredge
Raking clams off of Chincoteague, Virginia
Raking clams off of Chincoteague, Virginia
Soft clams are harvested by using a hydraulic dredge from the side of the boat. A water jet is created at the end of a conveyor belt and it cuts a thirty-inch-wide trench in the bottom of the Bay. Everything on the bottom comes up the conveyer and the waterman culls through the belt for the soft clams. The clam's width is measured with a two-inch ring and the rest of the material goes back into the water.

The hard clam is another common clam on the East Coast of the United States. This clam can grow up to seven inches across. Hard clams range from Maine to South Carolina in the intertidal zone. The hard clam is also known as the "quahog."

Hard clams are harvested in a different and more labor intensive way than soft clams. They are either raked in shallow water with a special clam rake, or harvested with patent tongs. The rake is scraped across the mud and sand to pull up the clams from the silt. They are then sorted by size and sold. The hard clam is the main ingredient in clam chowder.


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