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What Is a Clam Rake?

By M. Haskins
Updated May 17, 2024
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A clam rake is a tool specifically designed for digging up and gathering clams that burrow into the sand or mud of the ocean bottom in natural tidal areas or on clam farms. Clam rakes come in various sizes, and the tines can vary in number, spacing, length and design. Usually, a clam rake is made from steel, and looks similar to a regular rake, though a clam rake commonly has a shorter handle and longer tines that are broader, more knife-shaped and sometimes curved. Some types of clam rakes also have a metal basket attached to the back of the rake for holding the clams as they are dug up. Examples of different clam rake designs are: harvester rakes, which have a large, open holding basket; bull rakes, which have a more enclosed holding basket; and Chatham scratchers, which have no basket attached.

An important consideration when choosing a clam rake is whether the top layer of the ocean bottom is hard or soft. Longer and wider tines are preferable when digging in hard sand or mud than when digging in softer material. The clam rake is used by pulling the tines through the top layer. When a clam is found, the tines of the rake are angled underneath it and it is scooped out and either gathered into the clam rake basket or placed in a holding container like a bucket.

Clamming can be done in natural tidal flats near the ocean and is best done at low tide. People who gather clams are known as clammers, and the activity of digging up the clams is often referred to as clamming. Both recreational clammers and commercial clammers who work in a clam fishery or in clam farming can use clam rakes. Recreational clammers commonly walk out into the tidal area when the tide is out, using clam rakes or other tools or just their bare hands to dig for clams. Commercial clammers can also do their clamming on foot, but sometimes work from boats in somewhat deeper waters instead, often using a net rather than a clam rake.

Farmed clams are often grown in hatcheries and nursery areas until they reach a certain age and size. The clams are then placed on a natural beach and allowed to burrow into the ocean bottom. After a few years, they are harvested, a process that is often done using clam rakes or other hand tools like trowels or dredges.

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