It is easy and completely legal for tourists to go clamming in Ocean City. Here's how!
Every year, millions of people visit Ocean City, Maryland. These tourists and visitors shop at local stores, enjoy beaches, and, yes, help keep the town's many excellent seafood restaurants' doors open. But for people who come down to Ocean City multiple times a year, either on their own in a rental house or to visit friends, the prospect of paying tourist prices for seafood can get a little old. It is not unheard of to pay a dollar each -- if not more -- for steamed clams in many local seafood restaurants. I can't tell you how many times I've sat on the deck at Crab Alley or Hooper's and looked over the water only to realize that I could have pulled a couple dozen clams out of the sand myself in just minutes. We've spoken with a few locals and, at the risk of giving away their secret spots, they agreed to help us put together this list of tips for Ocean City visitors to go clamming on their own. Before we get to the spots, here are some answers to the questions asked most often.Are non-residents even allowed to clam in Maryland?
State law says that only Maryland residents are allowed to dig for clams in the state. HOWEVER, there is an exception crafted specifically for Worcester County, which is where Ocean City is. So, while it would be illegal for non-residents to clam in other areas of Maryland, it is perfectly legal for anyone to clam in Ocean City. Do non-residents need a permit to dig for oysters or clams?
No. There is no permit or license required to clam in Ocean City. You don't need a fishing license, nor do you need to apply for a crab license (you would be surprised how many people ask that). People of all ages are allowed to dig in the sand in search of their dinner! Are there size restrictions?
Yes, there are size restrictions in place. Clams harvested from the bay must be at least one inch thick. This is called the "traverse measurement," which is illustrated using the graphic above. How many clams is someone allowed to take from the bay?
Well, the easiest answer is if you're going to go clamming, only take what you actually need. Every cooked clam that goes to waste means one fewer to help sustain the clam beds. It is important not to over do it. Yes, you don't want to annoy the locals by over-clamming the beds, but sustainable practices also help protect the clam beds and ensure they are there in future years. The official regulation on the books, however, is 250 clams per person per day. Yes, that means a family of four can legally dig up 1,000 clams in an afternoon. While a resident might have some need to dig up that many to process and store for the winter, there really isn't any reason for a tourist to dig up that many clams in a single day.
Now, to the most important part: Where are the best places to clam in Ocean City? Well, it really depends on how you plan to get there! Skimmer Island
In the Isle of Wright Bay, just north of the Route 50 Bridge, is a small island called Skimmer Island. A lot of the island is actually home a bird sanctuary, meaning that humans are not allowed to clam there. These boundaries are clearly marked, so if you go there, just pay attention to the signage. The fines for trespassing on the bird sanctuary are pretty hefty and easily dwarf the savings you get by digging up your own clams! During low tide, a second half of the island surfaces where the bird sanctuary rules are not in effect. This sand bar is a great place for relaxing, grilling, fishing, and yes, clamming. The best clam beds are definitely on the northern side of this sandbar. [caption id="attachment_5800" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
After just 20 minutes of digging on Skimmer Island last summer, five of us walked away with more than 90 clams.[/caption] A word of caution, however. Because this island can really only be enjoyed during low-tide, it can be hard to navigate the channels to get there. Any boat with keel deeper than a pontoon boat will have a difficult time safely navigating through the channel. With lots of other boats and jet ski traffic in this area during the summer, it's really not a good place to wander into with a boat if you don't know what you're doing. However, this clam bed is an excellent spot to reach by kayak! Sand bar near Bahia Marina/Fish Tales at 21st Street
If you don't have a skiff, or even a rake, you can rent both at the Bahia Marina and take them out to the sand bars just off shore. This makes this spot great for novices. Definitely be sure to check out the tide charts before heading down and renting anything. Since these rentals are charged by the hour, you'll end up with a pretty large bill if you don't plan your rental around the low tide schedule.
This past year, the restaurant Fish Tales hosted the 2nd Annual Clamming for a Cure. This annual kayak and clamming relay race raises money for breast cancer research. Usually, this event is held in July so if you happen to be in the area when it is held next year, you can get your clamming kick and also help raise money for a great cause! Shallows behind the Convention Center
A third great option is the shallow waters behind the Convention Center. Located at 40th Street, this location is excellent because it provides easy access to the water, a shallow spot on the bay for digging, and can be reached without needing a boat. This can get a little awkward if there happens to be a convention in town, but rest assured that it is completely legal to clam these waters. What's also great about this spot is the water is shallow enough and the sand bar is close enough to shore for even children to reach it. Just make sure you pay attention to all boat traffic in the area and wear a life vest to make it easier for watercraft to see you! Got any other great spots for clamming in Ocean City? Let us know in the comment section below!