Do I Need a License to Go Clamming in North Carolina?

Clamming is a popular recreational activity along North Carolina’s coastal waters. The state boasts some of the best clam beds on the East Coast, making it a top destination for digging these tasty bivalves. But before grabbing your rake and bucket, it’s important to understand North Carolina’s licensing and regulations for recreational clam harvest.

Unlike many other states, you do NOT need a general recreational saltwater fishing license to harvest clams for personal use in North Carolina. However, there are still important rules to follow, including restrictions on harvest quantities, methods, and locations. This article provides a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know before going clamming on the North Carolina coast.

North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License

While a general recreational fishing license is not required, North Carolina does require a specific license for the harvest of shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels. This is called the Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) and it applies to both residents and non-residents aged 16 or older.

The CRFL costs $16 annually for residents and $32 for non-residents. It can also be purchased for shorter 10-day periods. The CRFL authorizes you to recreationally harvest finfish as well as shellfish like clams. So if you want to legally harvest clams in North Carolina, you need a CRFL.

Limits on Recreational Clam Harvests

In addition to the licensing requirement, North Carolina sets daily limits on how many clams you can legally harvest. The recreational limit is 100 clams per person per day, not to exceed 200 clams total per vessel per day. These limits apply even if multiple licensed harvesters are on board.

So for example, if three licensed clammers are on a single boat, they could collectively harvest 300 clams between them (100 each), but no more than 200 clams total per vessel. The per-vessel limit prevents overharvesting from boats with multiple diggers.

Approved Locations for Clamming

North Carolina also regulates exactly where clams can be recreationally harvested. Only areas classified as “Approved” or “Conditionally Approved” are open for public clamming. These classifications indicate the waters meet certain safety standards for shellfish harvest established by the state Shellfish Sanitation Program.

You should verify current open harvest areas with local health departments before clamming. Some counties may also have certain areas designated only for residents or that require supplemental town permits. Be sure to check local rules before harvesting. Closed areas and polluted waters are unsafe for collecting shellfish.

Allowable Clam Harvesting Methods

There are also rules around how you can harvest clams. The only legal recreational methods are handheld tools like rakes, hoes, tongs, and shovels. Powered mechanical equipment is prohibited without a special permit.

Methods like hydraulic escalator dredges that can damage submerged aquatic vegetation or heavily impact clam populations are restricted. Always use care and harvest clams sustainably from approved areas.

Additional Rules for Commercial Clamming

The regulations covered so far apply to recreational clamming where the catch is only for personal use. For anyone wanting to sell clams commercially, additional licenses are required in North Carolina.

These include a:

  • Shellfish License for NC Residents Without a Standard Commercial Fishing License
  • Standard Commercial Fishing License with a Shellfish Endorsement

Commercial harvest requires more oversight and regulation to prevent overexploitation. Recreational limits on quantities and methods do not apply to licensed commercial clammers.

Key Takeaways: Clamming Regulations in North Carolina

In summary, here are the key points for recreational clammers to remember:

  • Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) is required
  • Daily limit 100 clams per person, 200 per vessel
  • Only harvest from approved, classified shellfishing waters
  • Check local town rules for restrictions
  • Only handheld tools like rakes and tongs allowed

Following North Carolina’s shellfish regulations supports sustainable management of clam populations. Observing daily limits, properly disposing of shells after use, and respecting habitat help preserve healthy fisheries. Enjoy your clamming adventures and be sure to review state laws before heading out!

Frequently Asked Questions on NC Clamming Regulations

Do I need a fishing license to go clamming?
You need a Coastal Recreational Fishing License (CRFL) to recreationally harvest clams. This applies to residents and non-residents aged 16 or older.

Where can I clam in North Carolina? Only “Approved” or “Conditionally Approved” classified coastal waters are open for public clamming. Check with local health departments.

When is clam season in North Carolina?
There is no designated clam season in NC. Recreational clamming is allowed year-round as long as you follow daily limits and only harvest from approved waters.

What is the limit on clams in NC?
The recreational limit is 100 clams per person per day, with a maximum of 200 clams per vessel per day no matter how many licensed harvesters are onboard.

How many clams can I keep? As an individual licensed clammer you can keep up to 100 clams per day. If clamming from a boat with others, the total boat limit per day is 200.

What tools can I use to harvest clams?
Only handheld tools like rakes, tongs, hoes and shovels are allowed. No mechanical harvesting methods or equipment unless you have a special permit.

Can I sell clams that I catch recreationally?
No. Recreationally harvested clams cannot be sold. You need a commercial clamming license to sell clams in North Carolina.

What are the penalties for violating NC clam regulations? Breaking recreational shellfishing regulations like limits, harvesting from prohibited areas, or using illegal gear can lead to citations, fines, and confiscation.

Clamming Ethics and Best Practices

Beyond just following North Carolina’s recreational shellfishing regulations, there are also some general ethical practices and sustainability considerations that clammers should keep in mind. Here are some tips:

Respect catch limits – Never take more clams in a day than regulations permit just because others are not around. Overharvesting can quickly deplete populations.

Observe size restrictions – Some areas prohibit harvesting clams under a certain size. This allows them to mature and breed at least once before being harvested.

Rebury small clams – If digging up undersized clams, carefully rebury them right-side up so they can continue growing. Never discard them or leave them exposed.

Leave some for the future – Consider leaving a few legal-sized clams behind to support population stability. Sustainable harvesting ensures clamming opportunities can continue.

Tread lightly – Take care not to damage any submerged aquatic vegetation which provides important habitat. Use rakes carefully to minimize disruption to the sediment.

Following ethical practices like limiting catches, respecting reproductive cycles, and protecting habitats helps preserve clam populations while allowing sustainable harvests. Doing your part ensures North Carolina’s incredible clamming opportunities can continue for generations.

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