Nova Scotia Week, Clamming for Lunch
It’s low tide on Digby flats, not far from the largest scallop fishing fleet in North America. I took full advantage of their catch last night, trying the tender pan-seared scallops at the classic Digby Pines resort. But today my attention turns to my favorite seafood, the clam. A handful of clam diggers have already drove their trucks up to the sand bar to snag their 100 clams, the limit for recreational clammers. I’m here to meet Wanda VanTassel, owner of Fundy Adventures, and that legendary Nova Scotian, Terry “The Clammer” Wilkins. Wilkins will be turning 60 soon, but he’s been digging in this muck since the age of 11 and he’s not going to stop anytime soon.
Fundy Adventures takes our group of 8 onto the flats, where Terry teaches us to look for small holes in the mud, a clear sign that there’s a clam down there. Then he hands out a 4-pronged clam hack and a bucket with a small circular ring used to measure the clams and ensure that they’re at least 1 ¾ inches big. I start jabbing at the mud, excited to score my first clam. But it’s a lot harder than it looks. A lot of times I hacks away at the Bay of Fundy bed and come away empty handed. Terry threw down 1,000 pounds of clam seed a year ago and it’s just starting to sprout. 2 years from now, the Digby flats should be back to the taking of Terry’s youth.
Once we tire of digging, we head back to the high water line and watch the amazing tidal shift happen on the Bay of Fundy, a whopping 26-foot difference between low and high tide. The sand bar completely disappears under the water. Wanda serves us buckets of steamed clams, with meat so sweet you really don’t need the butter. It also helps that the bellies are some of the biggest I’ve ever had. She also serves tasty dulse biscuits and a roasted nori seaweed snack. The Clammer breaks out his guitar and starts singing “I am a fisherman, lowly digger of the clam.” His voice is excellent, the sun is shining off the water, with spectacular views of headlands across the bay, and my stomach is full of just-caught clams. Life is bliss.