What to know about clamming, crabbing on Long Island
For many Long Islanders, clamming and crabbing are summer traditions often shared among families and across generations. What is it that makes the gathering of such simple creatures so alluring? The answers can be pleasingly diverse, but certainly the prospect of a fresh and tasty meal, enjoying the great outdoors and squeezing in a little exercise rank high on the list.
Best bets for clamming and crabbing on Long Island
SPOTS WITH NO FEE: Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton, Corwood Landing Park in Miller Place and Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays.
CRABBING AND CLAMMING HOT SPOTS
Blue crabs are generally caught with inexpensive box or pyramid-style traps baited with bunker or chicken wings, or by using a long-handled crab net, at prime spots like docks or bulkheads in South Shore and East End bays. Blue claws also can be taken from boats or scooped from the bottom while wading shallow sand flats. Crabs also are available in North Shore harbors, although usually in lesser numbers. Your favorite place for snapper fishing is a good starting point, as are the public piers at Captree State Park (parking: $8 per car daily May 27-Sept. 4 and weekends and holidays May 6-May 21 and Sept. 9-Oct. 9) and Wantagh County Park (free for Nassau residents, $15 nonresidents May 27-Sept. 4). Smith Point Marina County Park (no parking fee for marina before toll booth) offers access along its bayfront and bulkhead, and the banks of Shinnecock Canal also can be productive (when the locks are closed).
Clams are easily gathered in shallow bay or harbor waters using either a scratch rake to dig them up or a method called “treading,” in which you shuffle your feet in the sand while wading in knee- to chest-deep water. Upon feeling a buried treasure, simply bend over and pick up your prize. Be sure to wear water shoes if going this route to avoid cuts from shells and debris. Success is improved by clamming on dropping tides when you can access waters that receive less harvesting pressure.
Sandbars and shallow flats are prime clam habitats. Note that most tidal creeks, river mouths and areas surrounding marinas are closed to clamming. Observing other clammers having success is a sure sign you’ve stumbled upon a spot worth investigating — but leave plenty of space between yourself and others as crowding is considered bad form in this laid-back sport.
MORE CLAMMING SPOTS
CUPSOGUE BEACH COUNTY PARK, WESTHAMPTON Consistently good clamming on Moriches Bay. Path to bay is at the northwest end of the parking lot. Fee $18 ($9 resident with Green Key card) for parking 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
CEDAR POINT COUNTY PARK, EAST HAMPTON Decent clamming in Northwest Harbor is available directly in front of the parking lot. If you are unsure of clamming areas within the park, ask the attendant at the toll booth. Fee None
CORDWOOD LANDING COUNTY PARK, MILLER PLACE Easy access to prime clamming waters on Long Island Sound. Fee None
MORE CRABBING SPOTS
CAPTREE STATE PARK, BAY SHORE Excellent mid-June through early Sept. from southeast pier. Fee $8 for parking 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays May 30-Sept. 1 and 7 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends and holidays May 6-Oct. 9.
SMITH POINT COUNTY PARK, SHIRLEY Fair to good daytime crabbing available from shore or by wading immediately north of the main parking lot and east of Smith Point Bridge. July through Sept. is peak season. Fee $18 ($9 resident with Green Key card) for parking 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend.
SHINNECOCK CANAL, HAMPTON BAYS West bank holds good crabbing potential day and night in July, Aug. and early Sept. Crabbing viable at this location only when locks are closed. Call Shinnecock Lock House (631-852-8299) to confirm lock opening and closing times. Fee None
PERMITS AND REGISTRATIONS
Clams and other shellfish such as oysters, mussels and scallops may be taken only from waters that are DEC-certified and currently open for shellfishing (on.ny.gov/shellfishmapper). No state permit is required for recreational crabbing or shellfish harvesting. Check with the local town offices for additional shellfish harvest limits and permit requirements. Contact Suffolk County Parks for access and availability to harvest shellfish from park lands.
NYS DEC has an online tool for checking which waters are currently certified and open for shellfishing (on.ny.gov/shellfishmapper) and the map covers all Long Island waters. Areas certified and open for shellfishing appear in light blue, seasonal closures appear in dark blue and year-round closures are shown in red.
RULES OF THE GAME
During the warm summer months, all shellfish (clams, oysters, scallops and mussels) should be kept shaded and cooled to minimize the potential for bacteria to grow. Once you have finished gathering your catch, immediately place it in a cooler, on ice or in some type of refrigeration. Never leave shellfish in standing water.
Blue crab season year-round. Minimum size 4.5” hard shell, 3.5” soft shell (3” shedder). Possession limit State law limits recreational harvest of crabs to no more than 50 crabs per day (of any single species or combination of species).
Hard clam season: year-round. Minimum size 1” thickness across hinge. Possession limit No more than 100 per day.
HEALTH ADVISORIES FOR EATING CRABS
DEC and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) issue advisories on eating sport fish and wildlife due to potentially harmful levels of chemical contaminants. Jamaica Bay specifically has an advisory against eating blue crabs and fish.
In all waters, it’s recommended not to consume crab or lobster tomalley (liver or hepatopancreas), the soft “green stuff,” found in the body section of crabs and lobsters as it can concentrate potentially harmful chemicals. For the most up-to-date and accurate data on fish consumption advisories, visit health.ny.gov/publications/6502 and on.ny.gov/3Fue2EH.