I hope whether you are an experienced or first time Clam Digger, you'll find this page informative and enjoyable. I would like to share with you my experiences of digging for Horseneck Clams on the mudflats of Tomales Bay, California.
Well as you can see from the pictures there quite larger than your average clam. Typically a nice size Horseneck will have a shell that measures six to eight inches. Gaper (Tresus capax) is the true name for Horseneck also locally known as the Dillon Beach Giant Clam. They can be found three to four feet beneath the mud and sand in the mudflats around the Tomales Bay area.
The best place I have found is Lawson's Landing in Dillon Beach, California. Lawson's Landing is a great place for camping, fishing, boating and of course clamming. The clams are found on the mudflats just off the shores of the campground, which means you must have a boat.
The mudflats are only accessible during the minus low tides between the months of January and July. So check the local tide tables to plan your clam trip.
So what type of gear do I need to dig these Giant Clams?...
Various types of clam apparatus can be seen in action out on the mudflats, but the most basic is that of a garden shovel, a 12 inch by three foot section of irrigation pipe and a clam pump gun. Watch other clam diggers and see what their techniques are; you'll come up with some great idea's for your next outing. You will also need something to put your catch in, such as a five gallon bucket or burlap bag. On cold and rainy mornings a rain suit not only keeps you some what dry but acts as a wind breaker against the cold ocean breeze.
This is the easy part... Unlike the smaller clams such as Cockles and Razors, the Horseneck has a tough leathery brown skin covering its' long neck which can be a pain to remove. There are many ways clammers deal with this task of removing the tough skin, here's my way. Before leaving the shore, rinse your clams of mud and sand at the waters edge. On the way back to your camp site, fill up a 5 gallon bucket with fresh water along with your clams. Let the clams soak in the fresh water for about 3 hours, this will allow their necks to relax and loosen the tough skin. I've also seen clammers run a stiff wire such as a coat hanger through the tip of the clams neck then hanging the clams in a tall bucket, thus allowing the clams body weight to stretch out the neck. If you don't have a tall bucket, a plastic bag fitted and filled with water, inside a three foot clam pipe works great.
If your not planning to clean your clams within the next 3 to 6 hours or going to travel some distance back home, place your clams in a bucket and cover with sea water for the journey. This will keep your clams alive for several hours until you have the time to start soaking them in fresh water.
Actually the best way for a first timer is to watch an experienced clammer accomplish this task. But if this is not posssible....
Start by laying one of the clams on a clean cutting board then make a clean cut up the middle of the clams mantle (the meaty area along the opening of the shell) towards the neck. You don't have to go very deep. Now cut thru the center of the lower abductor muscle. Then cut thru the other one just below the underside of the neck.
Gently remove the clam from its' shell. Don't forget to remove the abductor muscles from shell. Your going to be saving almost all of the clam, which includes the ruder, mantle, abductor muscles, stomach and of course the neck. Now cut the neck from the body and set aside for the moment. Cut and discard the gills. Seperate the ruder or foot from the stomach. Remove by scraping and rinsing all the dark intestines from the stomach. Remove all the brown skin and slime from the mantles. Place all of your cleaned clam parts in a bowl out of suns rays and get ready to clean the neck.
First cut off the tip of the neck just below the purple area. The object here is to remove all the tough brown skin from the neck... I start in the middle of neck by trying to peel off in what ever direction seems to be easiest. If your having trouble, soak the neck in warm water for about 20 minutes and try again. Now that you have all the skin off, make a clean cut down the outerside of one of the siphons of the neck; then do the same to the center wall that connects the two siphons. This leaves you with a nice slab of white delicious meat. That's it...OK nine more to go...
Rinse your cleaned clams real good in fresh water to remove the black sand and any missed skin or what ever. If your not going to use them right away... pack them in ice or put them in your RV's freezer.
1 cup Chopped Clams
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup flour
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbls. fresh minced bell pepper
2 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. seasoned salt
Mix all ingredients together and make silver dollar size patties.
Fry in about quarter inch of hot vegetable oil until crispy brown.
This should take about 3 minutes each side, more or less depending
on the thickness of the patty.