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How To Build A Clam Pump and The Sport Of Clamming
If any of you sportsmen or women are even thinking of trying the sport of clam digging, you need to learn how to build a clam pump or you are in for a lot of work. Pumping clams with a clam pump is about a hundred times easier and faster than any other method I’ve seen, all of which usually involve that archaic device known as a shovel. No need for such a terrifying tool when the clam pump is deployed! The clams I’m talking about here are horseneck clams, geopathics, washingtons, softshells, and this type of long neck clam.
A clam pump is a simple device and can be easily made in your garage at home with very little expense. All you need is a 30-inch piece of 3-inch PVC pipe with a flat, glued cap on one end for the pump body. Next, you need a thirty-inch by ¼-inch rod that is threaded about three inches from each end, which will hold a handle on one end and round flat rubber washers, such as compressed tennis balls or pieces of rubber, on the other end that are somewhat tight against the inside of the pvc pipe to act as “plungers” to suck up the water when you pull back on the rod handle at the top of the pump.
The pump body (3″ pvc) has a hole in the side about an inch below the cap to allow air and trapped water to escape when you pull the pump handle. The cap itself has a small hole in the center of it at the top of the pump, so that the suction rod can be inserted through it. On the top of the suction rod there will be a piece of ¾ inch metal pipe perpendicular to the rod as a pump handle. This will be about 6 inches long with holes in the middle through both sides of the pipe , for the suction rod to pass through so that it can be secured Thread a nut onto the threads of the suction rod along with a washer to where the threads end Place the rod through the handle part and thread another washer, lock washer and nut, to squeeze the handle between them and the first nut and washer and tighten so it’s secure L a little “Clamping” would be helpful here and then cut off the excess safety threaded rod .
The rubber washers are attached in much the same way to the other end of the suction rod, but make sure you attach them before placing them and the rod into the pump housing, as they will be up inside the tube when the handle is attached after this passing through the opening of the cap.
Finally, you need a way to hold onto the body of the pump when pumping, as holding the 3-inch tube in your hand can be a bit awkward. An easy fix for this is to attach a piece of ¾ inch flat tape across the center of the cap so it hangs a few inches on each side of the pump. You will drill a hole in this just like you did the top of the cap as they will “stack” on top of each other and the suction rod will go through both of them. This flat bar will be attached securely to the cap before being glued on with small nuts, washers and bolts that will require drilling holes in the flat bar to fit them. This also has the added benefit of protecting the plastic cap from rapid wear from the bar passing back and forth during pumping.
Another good solution to the handle problem is to drill a small hole in the pump body 6 to 10 inches from the top of the cap and insert a 5-inch bolt inside with a washer. Find or make a metal or wooden handle so that the bolt can pass through the center of it, and place a washer and nut on the outside of that handle to hold it in place.
Now, the fun part—-How to properly use this magnificent device! First, find the clam! Wait until the tide goes out, but about 45 minutes before low tide. This is because the clam pump uses water to blow its way down to the clam rather than suck up the mud, so you need to have several inches of water above the mud flat where you are catching the clams. Walk along, and when you think you see the clam’s mouth sticking up, which is usually just a little oddity in the sand, or maybe the two “nostrils” showing, put your finger in the hole. If it’s a clam, you’ll feel a small slimy creature immediately retreat into the hole away from your finger. Place the bottom of the pump over the hole and suck up the water and quickly blow it into the sand and mud. Don’t push down on the pump, if anything, hold it a little off the sand. Your pump will sink a few inches. Repeat this until you feel the hard shell of the clam with the body of the pump. You reach down the hole and feel the clam and everything around as many times as 2 or 3 can be taken from one hole. Sometimes, after hooking the jig, you can hold the pump up and pump quickly with one last big “suck” and spit the clam out in front of you. You may still have to feel for it or wait for the water to clear as you move on to the next one as the water is too muddy from all the pumping to see it lying in front of you.
You’ll have your limit in just minutes, while you’ll see the shovel crews out there forever working their you-know-whats! Be prepared to explain how you created this magical tool, as these people will surely question you on one of their many breaks.
Now for the clam chowder, clam strips, and raw clams with lime and wasabi! Hold on!!!, you have to clean them up. It takes longer than pumping, but it’s quick with a few jokes, beer, gas, or whatever your method of cheap entertainment is.
There are basically two parts to cleaning a clam. By this I mean the body and neck. First, you remove the body from the shell by running your sharp knife along the shell on the inside of the two halves of the clam to cut the clam muscle that attaches the clam to the shell. Next, remove the neck from the body where the rough “skin” of the neck begins. Submerge the neck in near-boiling water for just a few seconds to scald it. Next, peel off the brown skin from the neck and all the rest of the body to expose the snow-white flesh. Cut the neck almost in half along its entire length and rinse it well to avoid that “sandy” feeling in your mouth when you chew. It’s simple, but when you have 50 or 100 clams in front of you and they’re all scattering to the beaches and outhouses to avoid the job, it takes a while! Get out!
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