Clamming in Bodega Bay: The Complete Guide

Last Updated: April 1, 2022

Clamming in Bodega Bay is a great activity for both novice Bay Area hunter-gatherers and salty veterans. If you know where to look and put in a little effort, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious seafood meal that requires little cooking knowledge. Clamming is also a great outdoor activity for kids, especially young ones who enjoy digging and getting a little dirty. It’s also easier than going fishing or crabbing. As long as you come prepared, you’ll have a blast.

So where’s the best place to go clamming in Bodega Bay? What tools and equipment should you bring on your day trip? And is there a specific time of day that’s best? We’ll go over all of that and more in this article. We’re even including Finn’s favorite steamed clam recipe at the end. 

Ready to go clamming in one of the easiest Bay Area locations? Let’s dive in!

What Do I Need to Go Clamming?

The first step in planning your Bodega Bay Clamming trip is to set yourself up for success with the correct equipment. Here’s everything you’ll need:

Lastly you’ll need a California Fishing license. If you’re a California resident you can buy a yearly license or if not you can get a daily one. That’s pretty much it! If it’s a sunny Bay Area day you should probably put on some sunscreen. We also bring several water bottles for hydration and washing off our equipment when we’re done. If you want to prevent sand from getting everywhere in your car, bring a few garbage bags too for your boots/shovels.

When is the Best Time to Go Clamming in Bodega Bay?

The best time to go clamming in Bodega Bay (or anywhere, for that matter) is at the lowest morning tide. This occurs around the full moon and new moon when the tide swings are the largest. You can check the Bodega Bay tide schedule on this website.

We usually try to pick a day when the low is at least negative one foot and occurs between 6 am and 9 am. Negative one foot will give you plenty of time out on the sand flats of Bodega Bay (2 hours before and 2 hours after low tide) to dig for clams. We like going in the morning as it gives you enough time to let the clams filter out the sand inside them (we’ll explain that in a bit) so you can eat them the same day.

Be sure to also check the California Fishing Regulations page for any warnings or restrictions on species you can’t eat in Northern California. Sometimes there are algae or high toxin levels that make some species dangerous to consume.

Author Note: You can also call their shellfish warning hotline at (800) 553-4133. You’ll hear a recording that outlines any current restrictions and warnings.

Where is Best Spot for Clamming in Bodega Bay?

There are several spots that are good for clamming in Bodega Bay. Our favorite spot is just south of Gaffney Point right up to where there’s seaweed. We’ve also seen success close to Spud Point as well. Check out the picture below for more details.

where to clam

How to Dig For Clams

Once you’ve walked out on to the sand flats you can start hunting for clams. Here’s a step by step guide on what to do.

  1. Walk on to the sand flats toward the water. If you see scattered pieces of clamshells on the ground, you know you’re headed in the right direction. 
  2. If your clamming boots begin to get stuck in the sand/mud, turn around and try going out a bit further down. It’s fine if things get a bit sticky, but if you’re sinking more than two inches with each step, you should try another way. 
  3. Once you get to where the seaweed is, look for small holes in the sand. Some of these are small burying crustaceans, others are clams. You’re in the right spot.
  4. Begin digging with your large clamming/gardening shovel. You’ll most likely hit a few small clams in your first few scoops if you’re in a good spot. 
  5. In our experience, good-sized clams (larger than two inches) live between one and two feet below the surface. You’ll most likely find Macoma and Butter clams first, with the occasional Gaper clam as well. They’re all edible, but Gaper and Butter Clams have more meat and taste better in our opinion.
  6. Pay attention to the tide. If the water starts to get too high, it’s time to call it a day and focus on the next step: eating your clams.
digging for clams

Prepping Your Clams to Eat

Once you collect enough clams for your group (we usually aim for 30 to 40 clams), put them in a clean 5-gallon bucket with a roughly a gallon of seawater. Dump in around one cup of cornmeal per 30 clams.

The clams will filter the cornmeal through their systems and spit out the sand/mud/anything else they have in their guts. You should let them sit for at least 4 to 6 hours before eating them. Since it takes a decent amount of time, we recommend beginning the process as soon as you leave Bodega Bay.

It’s worth noting that this is the bare minimum we recommend for Bodega Bay clamming. If you want them to be completely sand-free you’ll need to wait around 24 hours and switch out the water/cornmeal every 4 hours or so. You should keep their temperature below 50 degrees for health food safety as well.

Top Tip: For the Gaper clams, you’ll also need to clean them by removing the outer skin on their foot. The video in the first paragraph shows how to do that.

gaper clam

Cooking Your Clams

Alright, you’ve waited patiently for your clams to filter out any sand and gunk they have in their systems and you’re ready to eat them! There are many different ways you can prepare clams, but our favorite is a recipe called “Driveway Clams” by Finn’s parents. They’re called driveway clams because they used to make them in their driveway during the summer with an outdoor burner. It’s a delicious recipe that’s great for attracting friendly neighbors. Check it out below.

Driveway Clams Ingredients

  • 1 pack of bacon.
  • 1 onion.
  • 3 cloves of garlic.
  • ½ stick of butter.
  • 1 tablespoon of chili flakes.
  • A small bunch of parsley.
  • 1 tallboy can of light beer.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Driveway Clams Recipe

  1. Chop up your bacon into 1-inch strips.
  2. Cut the onion into ½ inch strips.
  3. Mince garlic.
  4. In a large pot, heat up olive oil and pour in the bacon, onion, chili flakes, and minced garlic.
  5. Let this brown under medium heat until onion is translucent and bacon is cooked.
  6. Add in the ½ stick of butter and let melt.
  7. Then add your clams filing the pot almost to the top.
  8. Pour in your beer, parsley, and put a lid on your pot.
  9. Let steam for 6 to 7 minutes.
  10. You’re ready to eat some clams! We love toasting some french bread to dip in the sauce too.
driveway clams

Final Thoughts

Going clamming in Bodega Bay is a ton of fun even for inexperienced clammers. We hope after reading this article you’re set up for success and ready to catch some Northern California clams of your own. Clamming has also become one of our go-to activities as social distancing measures begin to relax a bit as you can easily keep your distance from strangers. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can also bring a surf fishing set up and fish for striped bass or other fish. Know of another place in the Bay Area that’s great for clamming? Shoot us a note in the comments below!

Happy Hunting!


12 thoughts on “Clamming in Bodega Bay: The Complete Guide”

  1. Thanks so much as I was looking for info in where to clam in the Sonoma area. I’ve never gone but I’m more interested in clamming for littleneck clams. Where do you recommend finding littleneck clams? I’ve heard of Tomales Bay in addition to Bodega Bay. My understanding is you can find littleneck clams in gravel/rocky areas but I don’t know where this is. Thanks in advance for any info!!

    1. Hi Chris! If you’re looking for Little Neck clams we recommend digging in areas that have more rocks – both Bodega Bay and Tamales Bay are great options. You should be able to find them in the region we highlighted above, as well as other parts of Bodega + Tamales. Little Neck clams tend to live close to the surface, so you won’t have to dig very deep to find them. Good luck!

  2. Hi there. My wife and I would love to come up for a couple days and try clamming, as well as oysters and maybe crabbing, fishing. Are there any guides or companies that take you out and provide necessary equipment etc?

    1. Hello! I’m not sure of any clamming/oyster guides but a friend of ours has gone with North Bay Charters for fishing/crabbing and had success. One note for fishing this time of year (December/winter): it’s not very good. We recommend going fishing during the summer and fall months for salmon and other species.

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