How to Dig for Mussels

Updated November 21, 2016

Digging for mussels is a popular pastime for those who live in or visit coastal regions. Mussles live in both freshwater and saltwater habitats and can be found on beaches covered by seawater at high tide. Once the tide has gone out, formerly hidden mussels are fair game for those who are willing to search for them.

Call the local extension office for information before you dig for mussels. Like all forms of fishing, digging for bivalves is regulated by the government for the protection of the species. There may be an official season during which digging is allowed or the government may require a license or permit. Additionally, there may be a daily limit to what can be taken home.

Check the tidal forecast for the region. Arrive one hour before low tide so you can begin searching as soon as the water pulls away from the shore.

Walk the beach slowly and search for small depressions or holes in the sand. Gases produced by the mussel migrate toward the surface to create these holes known as "show."

Place the blade of a small shovel 4 to 6 inches away from the mussel's show and slowly push the complete blade of the shovel straight into the sand.

Pull on the handle of the shovel until it cracks the surface of the sand. Push the shovel forward and lift the handle up to scoop the sand out.

Place the shovel full of sand into a large bucket. Add enough seawater to the sand to make a thin slurry.

Search through the sand with bare hands. Remove any mussels and place them in a clean bucket before returning to digging.

Things You'll Need

  • License or permit
  • Shovel
  • 2 large buckets
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About the Author

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.