Clamming 101: How to Catch Clams on Hatteras Island

Clamming: The addiction is real

As Captain David Wilson would say, “The great thing about clamming is they are always biting and they never get away!” We all love the thrill of reeling in a nice fish, but there is just something about pulling clams from the sandy floor of the Pamlico Sound that can’t be matched. The warm sun on your back, sand between your toes, and good friends to share laughs with as you pluck these delectable morsels is truly island therapy. If you’ve never been clamming before, a week on Hatteras Island is the best time to give it a try! With Captain Dave and other experienced fishermen at the helm, a clamming trip may just become a new family tradition!

Why You’ll Love Clamming

There are so many elements that make clamming the perfect family activity. For starters, you are completely surrounded by the beautiful scenery and wildlife of the Outer Banks. Kids can play in the warm shallow waters, look for crabs and other creatures, and have the time of their lives. You can go for just an hour or two instead of committing to a half day or full day excursion that is so expensive you feel stressed to bring something back that made your trip worth it. Pack some sunscreen, a few sandwiches and some cold drinks for a fun and relaxing afternoon, then get excited for a fresh seafood meal at the end of the day.

Photo by Dan Murphy, Outer Beaches Realty

Where & When You’ll Find Clams

Harvested in intertidal areas and shallow waters here along the Outer Banks and up and down the Eastern Seaboard, the quahog, also known as the hard clam or round clam, is an edible marine bivalve mollusk that is caught both recreationally and commercially. Typical hot spots to find clams are in or along the edges of a bed of seagrass.

When are clams in season?

There are no official dates for clamming season. However, the best time to score big is between June and late August when the waters are nice and warm. According to North Carolina state regulations, you do not have to have a license for recreational clamming, but there are laws on the size of clams and quantity you are allowed to harvest. To measure for a keeper, pinch the fat part of the clam with your pointer finger and thumb. If the clam is one inch thick or larger, you can keep up to 100 a day per person or 200 per vessel per day.

NC Wildlife Regulations

Photo by Dan Murphy, Outer Beaches Realty

How to Catch Clams

Since clams bury themselves anywhere from two to six inches under the sand, there are two common tools used to find them: your feet or a rake. To find them with your feet, shuffle them around as your dig into the sand until you feel the “knuckle” of the clam with the bottom of your foot. Once you find one, pull it out of the sand and toss it in your bucket or basket. If you have a rake, put the teeth into the sand and either push or pull until you feel it catch on a clam’s shell. Then, using the teeth of the rake, scoop it up and out. There are many different kinds of rakes, but locals will tell you the best have welded butter knives for teeth – talk about some old-fashioned ingenuity!

Photo by Dan Murphy, Outer Beaches Realty

How to Book a Clamming Trip

To book your clamming trip, check out Captain David Wilson on the Little Godspeed. David is a long time local angler who has been fishing these waters since he was a kid. He has superior knowledge of the landscape and history of Hatteras Island and will put you on the clams and fun in no time! Dave offers a variety of inshore trips for small groups including sunset cruises, bird watching tours, and treasure hunt tours for the kids. There is no better way to view the lush marshlands and winding canals of Hatteras Village than a cruise on the Little Godpseed!

And when you arrive back on shore with a huge haul of tasty clams, try our Clams Casino recipe for a feast the whole family will love!