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How To: Digging For Dinner In Kouchibouguac National Park

Being able to catch a fish and cook it over an open fire is a pretty cool skill to have. Problem is, you need a fishing rod, some knowledge of the body of water, seasonal fish, a license or tag, and maybe even a boat. But, that’s not the case in Kouchibouguac National Park, which is located just an hour outside of Moncton, New Brunswick. In this beautiful coastal park, you’re able to dig up a meal with nothing more than a bit of knowledge (which we’re going to share with you), a fishing license (available at the welcome centre) and a small garden rake.

Kouchibouguac National Park is located on the east coast of New Brunswick and includes some incredibly diverse geography. Sand dunes? Yup. Lagoons? Uh-huh. Salt marshes, forests, islands? Yes, yes and yes. And, as you can imagine, the hiking, swimming, paddling, and cycling in the park is all world class. But, one of the most rewarding and unique activities the park offers is clam digging.

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Season

Clamming season: May 15 – September 15

What You Need

Rubber boots, a clam hoe or shovel, and a bucket or bag. Finally, you’ll need a fishing license, which can be purchased at the park administration office or visitor information centre.

Where To Look

When the tide lets out, you want to hit mud flats and places that would otherwise be covered by the ocean. Walking across Kouchibouguac’s famous boardwalk to Kelly’s beach is a good place to start your hunt, or paddle out to some of the islands for some very remote clamming opportunities. Other good clam digging locations include: Saint Louis Lagoon, Kelly’s Beach, Kouchibouguac Lagoon, Calleander’s Beach, Black River, Richibucto Harbour, and Saint Charles Harbour. Pay attention to signage and you should be just fine, but just to be safe, here’s a map of places within the park that you can clam dig.

clammap

How To Clam Dig

You’re going to want to spend your working hours on either side of low tide. Your best bet is to check the local tide tables, ask some locals or call in to Kouchibouguac National Park.  You don’t need much equipment, a clam hoe or a garden shovel, and a basket or pail will serve you well. If the weather is nice, skip the rubber boots, but if you plan on digging for awhile, best to bring them along — the Atlantic is chilly at the best of times.
Now that you’ve got your gear and your location, all you have to do is look down. Look for little holes or “clam shows” on the flats around you. The three major shows are dimples, doughnut shapes, or keyholes (shaped like hour-glasses). If you’re walking along and you see some water squirt out of one of these dimples, there’s a good chance there’s a clam beneath the surface of the sand. From this point, you need to move quickly, as clams can dig quite fast.
Once you think you’ve found a good spot, dig a hole about 8 inches deep, rake or sift through the upturned mud with your rake or hands, and remove the clam. If nothing comes up, keep moving on. As you get better at scouting the “shows” you’ll start to find areas packed with enough clams to fill your basket.

What To Avoid

Avoid broken clams, clams that smell bad, or clams with shells that aren’t fully closed. Even if you accidentally stab a clam while digging, be sure to cook the clam quickly as they begin to decompose very quickly. Do your best to only take the biggest (2+ inches) clams so the clam beds remain healthy. Once you’re satisfied with your haul (100 clams is the day-limit), rinse them all off in the ocean and head inland to build a fire for your meal.

 

 

Cooking The Clams Over An Open Campfire

The best way to cook your catch is to either steam the clams or deep fry them. But simply boiling your haul in seawater is as good as gold. If you really want to do this thing right, try fire grilled clams or toss your clams in a pot of boiling water over an open campfire.

 

Like this post? Check out Canada’s Best Kept Secret: Kouchibouguac National Park and 10 National Parks You Have To Visit This Summer, too!

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