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Thread: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

  1. #36
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Not being raised to it I never did any digging myself. Quahogs were the things around East Greenwich Bay for kids I knew going to high school in Warwick, RI. Flat bottom deep and wide clam skiffs were their vehicle, powered by bigger and bigger outboards. One had 2 100hp Mercs. The clam cops kept upping the ante. Bull raking that was, mostly, I think. Thanks for the thread!

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    May I ask, as a young forumite (26), what has happened to this industry? Are there still clams to be taken? Are there environmental problems, or is the price gotten for clams today just too low to really make it worthwhile?
    “The difference between an adventurer and anybody else is that the youthful embrace of discovery, of self or of the world, is not muted by the responsibilities or the safety-catches of maturity.” Jonathan Borgais

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Quote Originally Posted by peterchech View Post
    May I ask, as a young forumite (26), what has happened to this industry? Are there still clams to be taken? Are there environmental problems, or is the price gotten for clams today just too low to really make it worthwhile?
    The clam industry on Long Island collapsed in the early '80's. The available stocks were so depleted that they never recovered. The main causes of the decline are probably overdigging, along with increasing environmental stress from development in the watershed that feeds the bays.

    There are still a handful of diggers left, down from the ten thousand licenses given out during the Sevnties. A lot of the ones who kept at it moved to different areas. Rhode Island was hot for a while, Staten Island, Great Kills, the Indian River in Florida. There's a lot of digging going on in Sandy Hook Bay, but it's tightly regulated by new Jersey, because the clams are taken in uncertified waters and then depurated. Forget about getting a license, there are only fifty.

  4. #39
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Quote Originally Posted by ILikeRust View Post
    Hey, at least those old VW Beetles floated.
    Not with the doors open, rust holes in the floorboards and eight bushels of clams in the back seat, they don't.

    No, it was the last ride for that little VW . Engine screaming in second...whole car invisible from shore cause of the spray we was throwing up..or so they said, anyway. Soon as we got near enough to shore we could see a little crowd on the beach...they was yelling and jumping up and down...we started yelling back, couldn't hear a thing though.

    We almost made it too and probably would have if it weren't for one small detail. You see, whenever a body of tidal water freezes solid there develops a crack around the perimeter where the tide flexes the ice, a hinge of sorts. Well, we hit that crack, which was by now more like a gap, and down she went. Off we jump as she settles in up to the bottom of the windows with only fifty feet left to go. Now it's getting dark, out come the clams, out comes the chainsaw and we start cutting a channel to shore, running that poor chain right into the bottom. The ice chunks were pushed under the solid ice and Tom backs his truck onto the edge of the parking lot over the beach. We grab a grappling hook with a hundred feet of half inch nylon from the boat, tie one end onto the trailer hitch of the truck and hook the bumper of the car with the grapple.


    Everybody stands back and the truck starts to pull the car, five, ten twenty feet, the problem is, the car's just sitting there, stuck. That truck must have stretched that line fifty feet before the two fingers of that hook straightened out.

    Tom's hanging his head out the truck window when that slingshot lets go and that bent hook goes flying straight for his head at about eighty miles an hour...

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Ledger View Post
    The clam industry on Long Island collapsed in the early '80's. The available stocks were so depleted that they never recovered. The main causes of the decline are probably overdigging, along with increasing environmental stress from development in the watershed that feeds the bays.

    There are still a handful of diggers left, down from the ten thousand licenses given out during the Sevnties. A lot of the ones who kept at it moved to different areas. Rhode Island was hot for a while, Staten Island, Great Kills, the Indian River in Florida. There's a lot of digging going on in Sandy Hook Bay, but it's tightly regulated by new Jersey, because the clams are taken in uncertified waters and then depurated. Forget about getting a license, there are only fifty.
    Okay earlier in this thread someone mentioned harvesting blue points at what I assumed was Blue Point. So now your saying the fishery has collapsed, but I see 'blue points' (clams and oysters) on menus everywhere on the east coast north of New York, and also in the ritzier seafood places in cities across the midwest. Any idea what gives? just a mislabeling??
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  6. #41
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    Okay earlier in this thread someone mentioned harvesting blue points at what I assumed was Blue Point. So now your saying the fishery has collapsed, but I see 'blue points' (clams and oysters) on menus everywhere on the east coast north of New York, and also in the ritzier seafood places in cities across the midwest. Any idea what gives? just a mislabeling??
    Blue Point is a village on the bay just west of Patchogue. It gave it's name to the locally harvested oysters during the nineteenth century, as did hundreds of other locations.

    The Blue Points company was a commercial clam grower and harvester located in West Sayville. A lot of the shots in the video were taken at their establishment. It's the red barn on the dock, and if you see a mechanical clam dredger. it's theirs. They had bottom leases for thousands of acres, which they planted with seed and were allowed to mechanically harvest. Their property was patrolled, so you couldn't dig there. They went out of business a few years ago, the red barn is now condos.

    The nature conservancy is trying to transplant clams on their leases.

    Any labels you see attached to shellfish in restaurants are pure marketing, I mean, Blue Points sounds so much tastier than a plateful of Raritans, a most likely more accurate description. There are very few clams coming out of Blue Point. There was a time, when oysters were plentiful and cheap, that the different varieties were distinguishable by a knowlegable clientele, but probably not anymore.
    Last edited by Jim Ledger; 01-25-2011 at 12:56 PM.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Great stuff-thanks - I grew up on the South Shore also, but farther west, before the Great South Bay-I remember the garveys and the clammers-most of the boats I recall were outboards-always mercs too-this was in the early 70's I guess. Knew some guys on the North Shore in the early 80's-Northport area (they had open boats and thought the south shore boys with the cuddy's were sissys)-who "got rich" with a huge calm vein they were on for a couple of years. The story was that guys paid of their mortgages and bought shiny new pickups pver a period of a couple of years and then it was over.
    Funny, though-can you imagine today's college kids out on an old garvey digging clams for college money? Or driving a car and cutting through the ice?! They'd all be arrested and medicated for ADHD or something...the good old days sure had some good in them...

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)






    This is the same boat as the green one in post #3, about 1996.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)




    Built by Jimmy Kirkup. Probably late 60's or early 70's in Bay Shore. In for a new deck late 1990's.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Tracey remembers Timmy Hermus.
    Just to be clear, I'm talking 'bout Timmy whose 50 and still kickinh. His father, and I believe grandfather, were also "Timmy," owned a boatyard, and built Scooters, most notably,

    May I ask, as a young forumite (26), what has happened to this industry? Are there still clams to be taken? Are there environmental problems, or is the price gotten for clams today just too low to really make it worthwhile?
    What Jim said. The guys left have to do a variety of things. Catching clams off Staten Island for transplant in Peconic Bay is pretty profitable for one friend whose in on that program. He lives with 8 other guys in a shack for 3-months 80-miles from home to catch his 10 bushels a day at whateber the daily rate is. Also catching bait; razor clams for the Chinatown market; Horsehoe crabs were hot for a while, their blood apparently used for medical research, but they were so easy to gather the price eventually dropped to where it wasn't worthwhile. Mecox Bay gives up some real fat, tasty oysters every year--but not many in the scheme of things; rod and reel fishing for striped bass; work a few trips on a buddy's dragger; eels for bait and the local Polish community; etc, etc etc.

    The few guys I know still at it work eight days a week hustling like that.

    Back in the day, anyone could go and get a license, put a boat together and have at it. ALmost every one I grew up with clammed to one degree or another. Now, you have to have a different license for almost every activity and you cant get one unless you can prove that the majority of your income over the past so many years came from catching seafood. So its moot whether you could start up anyways.
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  11. #46
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    There must be money in clams yet, people are digging them out of Mt Sinai even this winter.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    My dad started out digging clams on Long Island in the 50's and ended up on the Cape in the sixty's. He moved to North Carolina and dug clams there till 4 yrs. ago. Now at 83 he is back to the Cape digging clams in Osterville but more of a part time thing now. He had a friend that he used to visit from Long Island named Kerry Coyle that dug clams there till he downed about 20 years ago.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    How did he drown?
    “The difference between an adventurer and anybody else is that the youthful embrace of discovery, of self or of the world, is not muted by the responsibilities or the safety-catches of maturity.” Jonathan Borgais

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    My father was a clammer on the great south bay during the 70s and he was a tonger, the stories he had were on the edge of tall tales, but the more I learn about that time the more his stories don't seem even slightly crazy compared to most I hear from others. I saw this thread and saw that people were asking where people clam these days, I live in Bayville on the north shore (of Long Island), and I am a commercial clammer, I am a raker, and a lot of my friends do it also. There are about 30 or 40 of us out of Bayville and Oyster bay, and I would say about the same out of Huntington, everyone up here is a raker due to the depth of the water. The boats on the north shore are vastly different since we need the gunwales to lean against but many of us build up the floor so its below knee height. If anyone is interested ill be sure to get some pics, they are not as historical as the tong boats, though I still find them pretty cool.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    I'm really enjoying this thread

  16. #51
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Thanks Wookie, I used to have a job ashore in Oyter Bay, I know some clammers there. Al Samik comes to mind.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    I know who Al is, I know a photographer who did a spread for Newsday on Bill Fetzer, I feel like most of the facts were lost on that article though. It was more focused on the loss of his son.
    here are the links
    http://www.newsday.com/long-island/n...mmer-1.2184407

    http://www.jessenewmanphoto.com/ Jesse Newman was the girl who took the pics for that spread there is also a video labeled duckman

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Quote Originally Posted by wookietits View Post
    My father was a clammer on the great south bay during the 70s and he was a tonger, the stories he had were on the edge of tall tales, but the more I learn about that time the more his stories don't seem even slightly crazy compared to most I hear from others. I saw this thread and saw that people were asking where people clam these days, I live in Bayville on the north shore (of Long Island), and I am a commercial clammer, I am a raker, and a lot of my friends do it also. There are about 30 or 40 of us out of Bayville and Oyster bay, and I would say about the same out of Huntington, everyone up here is a raker due to the depth of the water. The boats on the north shore are vastly different since we need the gunwales to lean against but many of us build up the floor so its below knee height. If anyone is interested ill be sure to get some pics, they are not as historical as the tong boats, though I still find them pretty cool.

    Yes pictures would be great... I would like to see what you guys are using nowadays.

  19. #54
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    This was built by Scorse in Babylon, circa 1970's.





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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    What does that have for power, Roger?

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    I grew up in Bayport as kid in the seventies, used to drink free sodas from the clam buyers at the end of the road. Never had a license or boat but we used to go out and dig with our feet a few bucks worth whenever we wanted some cash for candy. The local boats were garveys with rakes, friends dad had a tong boat but there where only that one and maybe one other in the local canal.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Pretty cool to see Jim called a stalwart by Matt Murphy in the new issue's (#226) Editor's Page. And a link to the OP video on WB's Homepage.


    Steven

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    These photos were sent by my friend Steve who clammed in the Sayville area in the 1970's.


    Typical tong boats in the Sayville area, this is the wide part of the bay and these types were prefered over garvies there.


    This was originally a working sail vessel which had undergone a major refit in the 1970's.

    If anyone has any pic's of any raking boats feel free to post them.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Quote Originally Posted by holzbt View Post



    Built by Jimmy Kirkup. Probably late 60's or early 70's in Bay Shore. In for a new deck late 1990's.
    Was that the Brother of Charlie Kirkup? the one who ran the lumber yard? I knew him and his sons Tim, Pete & Charlie Jr.

    I know Charlie's Brother died some years ago..... if your wondering I am from BluePoint originally.... that photo of the bay frozen over brought back some memories I remember that a fairly new corvette and a blazer out joy riding fell victim to the holes cut into the Ice and they didn't float.....
    Last edited by KABAR2; 04-26-2012 at 04:34 PM.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Jimmy was the boatbuilder, Charlie ran the lumber yard and office, and Bud worked the yard and mill. Tim and Pete were friends of a friend so I knew them a bit. Charlie Jr. I never met.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Where my boat is on The Egg Harbor bay, behind Ocean City, the majority of commercial clamming is done by tredding out the clams. some guys rake, but it seems like most are tredded out. do they still do that much up there?

    -Thad
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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Nah. We recreational clam by treading. Commercially, Its rakes for hard clams. For razor clams, you use an outboard motor mounted on a "sled" to blow them out of the sand. Surf clams ( ocean quahog) its big boats offshore.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Great thread. I'm writing a book set in this time frame. One of my characters is a part-time clammer and I have a few questions. About what was the going rate for a bushel of clams in those days? My memory is about $20 a bushel? What was a reasonable haul for a day's work? And, was it legal to clam on Sundays? Thanks in advance for the information.

    Bob

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    I wasn't clamming in 72. But If it helps, and as memory serves, it was like 20-25 bucks a bushel in 1979/1980. Of course, some might stash clams in the bay and wait a little as the supply and demand, and thus, the price, fluctuated. This practice was frowned upon. I just dont know how anyone could do that.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Thanks Kevin. For some reason I think it was illegal to clam on Sundays. Did I make that up?

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    I haven't clammed, except for fun, since then, but I don't remember Sundays being closed. Nighttime was verboten. I do know that you cant use a dredge for scallops on Sunday.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    It used to be illegal to clam commercially on Sunday but okay to clam recreationally. Not sure if that is still the case now.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Thanks Holzbt. So you couldn't be out on the bay in your Garvey tonging or bull raking? That's what I thought. Who policed that? Was it Suffolk County? Town cops?

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Suffolk PD, NYS DEC, and the town bay constables. It wasn't all that unusual to be boarded 2-3 times in one day. They would check your liscense, both state and town, and for seed clams.

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    Default Re: The Life of a Clam Digger (1972, Long Island)

    Actually the answer depended upon where you were clamming and what your residency was. In Southampton Town, you can and always could, clam commercially seven days a week IF you were a Southampton Town resident.( Southampton uses the 300 year old Dongan Patent, granted by the English King, to supercede state fish and game laws within its boundaries and only for its residents.) But the Blue Laws were in effect in other areas. According to a bud whose still a digger, you can clam 7 days a week today, everywhere, except in Brookhaven Town.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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