Digging for ocean clams is one of the simplest, most rewarding, unique and satisfying pleasures the great Atlantic has to offer. I have been clamming in Weekapaug, Rhode Island’s Winnapaug Pond for 50 years and it never gets old.
The Winnapaug salt pond is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Weekapaug Breachway. Every six hours the breachway brings in a tide, filling the pond to the brim, or brings a tide out, leaving the pond shallow with exposed mud flats. It is at this point – low tide – that the clammers come out. The Winnapaug Pond features several small tributaries or inlets. Most are crystal clear, shallow inlets perhaps 20 feet wide and at best knee deep. Others are a bit wider and a bit deeper up to one’s chest. What these inlets – shallow or deep – have in common is that there are clams at the bottom!
Before we begin our excursion, some legal housekeeping is in order. You’ll need a Rhode Island Shellfish License which can be obtained at city hall and several other locations for a nominal fee. When you are issued your license, you will be given a steel ring approximately two inches in diameter. More later on how this ring will be your most important piece of equipment.