When saltwater fishing, clams are an ideal bait for many types of species. Clams are known most famously for their use as a desired bait for successfully catching Striped Bass. However, plenty of other fish will also bite a clam on a hook, such as Fluke, Flounder, Sea Robin, Bluefish, Sea Trout, Blackfish, Sea Bass, Porgy, Whiting, Rockfish, Surf Perch and many types of Sharks. Clams Bellies have a distinct taste and smell compared to most other forms of bait. Understanding some of the basics of clams and learning some simple fishing tips can easily teach you how to fish with clams as bait, like a pro.
How to Catch Clams for Use as Bait
Catching your own fresh clams for bait is not only cost friendly for you, but it is also very appetizing when placed on your fishing hook. With a little research, try to locate some local clam spots in your area. Usually, the locations are close to a beach of some sort while also being located in an area protected from a large body of water. Clams like to live in an area of about 1-2 feet deep so that they can receive an adequate amount of water during low tide. Some clams can even be caught in only a few inches of water.
When you have found your desired location to start clamming, there are a few ways to catch clams. My preferred method is to walk around in the sand with your feet and try to feel the clams. By digging the heels of your feet into the sand, you can easily feel the shell on the clam. When you do, reach down and grab the clam with your hand. The other method is to use a clamming rake. A clamming rake does work well when clamming but it can be an exhausting arm workout after a while.
If you aren’t able to catch your own clams, don’t worry about it! Clams are a popular frozen bait that is available at most bait and tackle shops. In most instances, clams are sold in a plastic vacuum sealed bag that can contain anywhere from 4-6 large clam bellies. Be sure to check the size of the bag that you are purchasing, so that you have plenty of bait when you are out on the water. We will mention the typical price of clam bait later in this article.
Does Clam Bait Work Well for Striper Fishing?
Off the coast, on the beaches in the Northeast, clams are everywhere. The beaches are covered with shells as well as live clams. Large predatory fish, like a Striped Bass, swim these waters just off the beach. They knowingly are aware of the abundance of clams and do not hesitate to eat one when given the chance. Usually, Stripers feed on clams directly after a storm. A storm will stir up the bottom of the sand floor and cause the clams to be exposed.
When fishing for Stripers compared to other types of fish, use an entire clam belly on your hook, even if it is really big. Striped Bass are able to open their entire mouths in order to swallow the large clam. If the bait is two small, it won’t carry as much flavor and scent to warrant a bite from a Striper. Stripers love fresh clams, shucked clams and salted clams. The more juicy the clam, the better.
How to Use Clams as Bait
Clams aren’t the perfect bait for every fishermen. Some people choose to avoid clams because of the challenges associated with maintaining the bait on your hook. Try to hook a clam several times around on a hook. You will notice that the more fresh the clam is, the easier it is to keep on your hook. As soon as the clam dies, that would be the ideal time to replace the clam meat on your hook. Try to avoid aggressively casting your rod to avoid losing your bait. For times where you need to cast your clam bait far, we recommended tying the bait to your hook with some string or fishing line.
Click here to see my preferred circle hook choice (from Amazon) for hooking a clam.
Clam Bellies work really well for Stripers but their oily scent is one of the most appealing traits when using this bait. Therefore, when your clam belly loses its scent, you should change your bait! Usually the scent will last for about 30 minutes before it is completely washes away in the water. However, if you are fishing in a lot of seaweed or in an aggressive water current, it may be best to change bait every 20 minutes or so.
How to Hook Clam Bait on a High Low Rig for Striper Fishing
When I go Striper fishing, my favorite type of rig to use is a High Low rig. I find this setup to work extremely well when I have fresh clams as bait. All you need is two circle hooks, a leader and a weight. With two hooks, you have the potential to hook up more fish. The benefit of using a High Low rig while bottom fishing is that the sinker drops first towards the bottom, allowing the clam bait to sit above the sinker, off the floor. This helps avoid tangles, excess seaweed and even provides more flexibility when casting for distance. This is certainly a popular rig when surf fishing since it is helpful to do long casts off of the beach.
When the Striper goes for the clam bait on the circle hook, the fish gets hooked automatically as it swims away. The circle hook catches the corner of the Striper’s mouth. It is advised to let the Striper run with the bait and the hook that it now has in its mouth. By waiting, you will be able to successfully hook the fish and avoid scaring the fish away with a sudden pull with your fishing rod.
How much does Shucked Clam Bait Cost?
Shucked clam bait can be priced per clam, by the pound and by the bushel. A common price that we see in the New York & New Jersey area is around $0.75 per clam, $7.50 per pound & $75.00 per bushel, of salted or fresh clams. Clams can also be sold for chumming. Chum can be sold by the quart (~$3.50) or in gallons (4 gallons = ~$20).
When fishing with clams, they can be smelly and make quite the mess on your boat. But, we hope that the reward of catching a large fish outweighs those negatives of using clams as bait. Clams are easy to freeze and can last a while in your frozen. However, if presented the opportunity to fish with fresh clams, you will certainly not want to pass up on that opportunity.