The Beach Times

A Guide to Shellfishing on Cape Cod
Posted by Kinlin Grover Vacation Rentals | Wednesday, November 13, 2019


During your Cape Cod vacation, you might be tempted to try some shellfishing. After all, being able to take the freshest clams, scallops, oysters, and quahogs available anywhere back to your vacation rental for dinner is too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Before heading out to dig, however, you'll need the right permits and tools, as well as awareness of the licensing requirements in every town. It's also essential to figure out where exactly you can dig so that you don't end up on private property.

Here's how shellfishing works on Cape Cod and what you can expect when you get out there.

The Necessary Equipment

Before heading out to do some shellfishing, you'll want the right equipment. Luckily, you'll only need a clam rake, bucket, clam gauge, and shellfishing permit to get started.

You can pick all of this gear up once you get to the Cape, as there are bait shops everywhere, including Chatham, Hyannis, and Falmouth.

While you're grabbing your gear, you might also consider buying some rain boots or hip waders, just to make your experience more comfortable. If you're fine digging and stepping in the mud without them, however, nothing is stopping you.

Getting a Permit

Every town has different permits, so you'll want to figure out where you'll be spending your time first.

In Wellfleet, non-residents can grab a seasonal permit for $85 and an annual pass for $210, while in Truro, non-resident passes are $25 for a week and $100 per year. Brewster will sell non-residents a one-week pass for $20 and an annual permit for $125, and Yarmouth offers annual licenses for $80.

Every town on the Cape has unique licensing requirements, so make sure you don't accidentally cross into another town while fishing.

All licenses are only available at the Town Hall or Town Clerks Office in the town in which they are issued. You can also pick up a list of each town's rules and regulations while you're there, so you don't end up breaking the law.

Generally, permits are good for seven days, although some towns allow you to buy seasonal and yearly passes. It all comes down to how much time you're going to spend on the Cape and how often you'll be clamming during your time here.

When to Head Out

The best time to go clamming starts an hour before low tide. You can look at the tide chart online to see when the best fishing time in your area begins. Look for areas in the water with mounds of sand that have a hole on the top. These mounds are where you'll find clams. You might have to dig about a foot down, but you'll definitely find something if you put the effort in.

Once you find your first clam, you'll likely find a bunch more in the same area. Generally, you'll be able to grab about 15 clams per hour, so it'll take you a couple of hours of digging to come up with enough for dinner.

Remember to use your clam gauge to measure the size of the clams you're keeping, as you're required to put any small clams back.

Feel free to ask locals where the best clamming is located, but don't be surprised if you're not given a straight answer.

Where You Can Dig

Speaking of where the best clamming is found, you'll want to learn where you're even allowed to dig.

In Wellfleet, for example, you can only go shellfishing on Chipman's Cove, Indian Neck, Duck Creek, and the Herring River.

There are seasonal restrictions, as well, as Indian Neck is only open on Sundays and Wednesdays in the summer, but every day during the offseason. Likewise, Chipman's Cove is only accessible between late October and April 30, while Duck Creek is available between December and late April.

Check the website of the community you plan to shellfish in to figure out what types of restrictions you'll be dealing with during your time on the Cape.

Try Some Shellfishing on Cape Cod

While it's perfectly fine to stop by a local fish market to grab some shellfish to enjoy at your vacation rental, there's something special about getting out to Cape Cod's beaches to gather clams and oysters for yourself.

Making an effort to dig some shellfish on the Cape provides you with the freshest seafood available anywhere, and provides you with the satisfaction of knowing that you caught the meal yourself.

As long as you're prepared to get the right permits and follow Cape Cod's shellfishing laws, gathering dinner on the beach can provide you with hours of entertainment.



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