Catching Dinner: Quahogging Lessons with Jody King
Shared on behalf of Rhode Island Sea Grant
A small group of people, rakes in hand, wade out into knee-deep water at the North Kingstown Town Beach to try their hand at clamming. As the rakes dig into the soft sand, something hard catches. One by one, quahogs are being pulled up and collected into a mesh bag.
“We’ve got a hot spot here!” yells Jody King, local quahog fisherman from Warwick, as he helps participants pull up dozens of quahogs in the first of three clam digging lessons that he will offer this summer at Rhode Island beaches. The lessons are hosted by Sea Grant as part of the state’s Shellfish Management Plan to engage the community and highlight one of Rhode Island’s most valuable assets – the quahog.
For many, this was their first time clamming, despite having lived in the Ocean State for many years.
“This is the first time I’ve been out in salt water,” said one participant, a resident of North Providence, who was eager to get on the water and learn how to clam – something, she said, she’s always wanted to do.
“You, as private citizens in Rhode Island, have the privilege and honor to go out and fill this bucket with about 200 little necks everyday for free, and take it home,” said King pointing participants to a large, orange bucket he uses to collect quahogs. “I encourage each and every one of you to find a spot on Rhode Island’s shoreline and fill it up everyday.”
The catch limit for recreational users is half a bushel, about 4 gallons, for state residents, and one peck (2 gallons) for non-residents, while the catch limit for commercial harvesters is 12 bushels, or 8 gallons.
“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and only a handful of times have I reached the 12 bushel limit,” said King, explaining how he averages about 175 to 200 days on the water per year, collecting an average of 1,000 clams per day that he sells at the market for about 20 cents per piece.
After King shared stories of life on the water and how he came to be a quahog fisherman, he showed participants how to collect clams using a variety of tools from bullrakes to ordinary toilet plungers, and how to measure clams so as only to keep those of legal size (1 inch).
“I throw everything back that’s not legal,” he said. “It’s called ‘job security’.”
Armed with knowledge and the right tools, participants waded out into the water, spending the afternoon collecting quahogs, and only being enticed out of the water with hot clam cakes from the Wickford Diner. Once on shore, King gave a lesson on how to shuck oysters and clams, and how to best prepare and store seafood.
“I didn’t realize how easy it was to clam here, and how many!” said one participant who walked away with several dozen quahogs for dinner for her family that night. “This was a really enjoyable experience, one that I hope to do more often.”