Whether you enjoy them raw, baked, steamed, fried or in a chowder, fresh clams and mussels may be harvested with minimal skill for maximum fun. A sense of adventure and love of nature are essential for this solo or family activity. A bit of planning will ensure fun and probable success harvesting your own seafood.
Above photo: Bucket of clams from Bluff Point (Groton) by Don Ronan
Here are a few shellfishing tips:
1. A license is required from each town in which you wish to harvest. Costs range from $5 to $30.
2. Harvesting may only occur during daylight hours in designated areas including Bluff Point Coastal Reserve in Groton and areas east of Mason’s Island in Stonington. There are minimum size limits. Check with town shellfish commissions. Groton harvest map / Stonington harvest map
3. Groton licenses are available Mon.-Fri. at the Town Hall or at the police station evenings and weekends. Cash only.
4. Stonington permits are available from Don’s Dock or Shaeffer’s Boat Livery. Cash only.
5. Each town provides online maps, license fees, and a phone number for current conditions. Groton: 860-441-6793, Stonington: 860-599-7575
6. The Shellfish Warden in each town regularly samples water and shellfish for purity and safety. He/she also stocks tiny seed clams and full-sized clams to improve harvesting success.
7. License fees pay for stocking as well as boat and equipment maintenance.
8. Heavy rain may cause a multi-day closure due to contamination. We recommend calling the updated conditions phone number.
9. Treading slowing in shallow areas at low tide allows your feet to identify the hard bump of clams. Remove by hand or with a clam rake.
10. Stonington waters may involve a skiff or kayak to access but the areas are shallow enough to walk during low tide. Bring a long-handled clam rake if you plan to remain in your boat.
11. Mussels are easier to spot and harvest at low tide where they may be visibly hanging from an embankment just above or below the water.
12. Shellfish licenses are good for clams, oysters, mussels and conch. If you are a CT resident of more than a year you may also harvest scallops.
13. Connecticut has 77,000 acres of shellfish beds and 14 towns allow public harvest.
14. Recreational permit holders are expected to consume the catch themselves or share with family and friends. They may not sell or barter their catch.
15. Daily harvest is limited to ½ a bushel or about 30 pounds.
16. Shellfish stay fresh in an open bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Avoid freezing or soaking.
17. Clean with cold water and a scrub brush before opening or cooking.
18. If a shell is cracked or doesn’t close when tapped, discard it.
19. If a clam or mussel doesn’t open when cooked in the shell, discard it.
20. A quarter pound of clams has only 70 calories (without butter or batter).
Enjoy the sweet, salty flavor of the ocean in every bite. Memories from your adventure will last even longer.
Easy New England Clam Chowder – Elizabeth Saede
3 slices of raw bacon, diced small
1 small onion, peeled and diced small
1 stalk celery, diced small
2 medium all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced small
Couple grinds of fresh black pepper
1 (8 ounce) bottle of Bar Harbor clam juice or similar brand
Clam meat and juice from 20 medium clams.
2 cups of whole milk
1. Scrub clams with a brush and cold water.
2. Open clams carefully over a bowl with a shucking knife or similar short, dull knife.
3. Rinse individual clams under cold water & place on cutting board.
4. Pile shells into another bowl for careful disposal.
5. Remove dark bellies from clams, if you wish.
6. Coarsely cut up clams.
7. Place fine sieve over a bowl and line with 1 sheet of paper towels.
8. Pour clam juice through the sieve to remove shell pieces and other debris. Reserve clean juice.
9. Brown bacon in a large saucepan. Remove bacon to a small bowl.
10. Add onion, celery and potatoes. Stir vegetables to coat with bacon fat and cook for 5 minutes.
11. Add black pepper, reserved clam juice and bottle of clam juice. All of the vegetables should just barely be covered by liquid.
12. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
13. Add clam meat, cooked bacon and milk. Simmer another 5 minutes to warm milk and gently cook clams.
14. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
15. Serve hot but don’t boil since that will curdle the milk.
Yield: about six cups. Serves 4 as an appetizer or two as a meal with crusty bread. Produces
TIP: Buy freshly-shucked clams and clam juice from the seafood counter and your chowder will be ready in under an hour.