How to Collect Your Own Mussels

Updated April 17, 2017

Mussels are one of the oldest species on earth, having been cultured by humans for almost 900 years. Mussels are one of the most affordable and treasured of the seafoods. While they can be easily bought at grocery stores, mussels can also be harvested on local beaches for a fresh and free meal. With some practice, a sharp knife, and a bucket of seawater, collecting mussels is simple and creates a delicious dish.

Determine when low tide is at your local beach. Place boots with grips on your feet, to ensure you are safe when climbing on slippery rocks. Put on work gloves to help you grip when climbing over rocks and pulling off the mussels.

Examine the beach for large rocks or piers. Large mussel colonies are generally found on the sides of rocks or on the legs of wooden piers. Choose large colonies, rather than the smaller ones which are just beginning, in order to harvest more mature mussels.

Select the larger mussels -- those that have no cracks or discolouration. The shells should be 2 to 4 inches long -- any larger and they will be chewy, any smaller and they will not have much meat.

Pry each mussel with one hand, so it is standing perpendicular to the rock. With the other hand, cut the threads that attach to the rock with the knife. These threads are called the byssal threads.

Place the mussels in the cooling bag and layer seaweed throughout to keep the mussels fresh. These shellfish are perishable and should always be kept cool before eating.

Insert the mussels into the large plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in the fridge. Use the seafood within 2 to 3 days. For best results, eat the mussels fresh after collecting them.


Only wash the mussels in fresh water right before cooking them, as the water kills the mussels. Some regions require a shellfish license when harvesting your own, such as Oregon. Check with the local fisheries to see if this is the case in your area.


Always ensure that there is no red tide warning during the period which you are harvesting the mussels. Check with the local fisheries department to see wither there are any warnings or bans on seafood.

Things You'll Need

  • Local tide guide
  • Boots with grip
  • Work gloves
  • Insulated cool bag or cooler
  • Sealable plastic bag
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About the Author

Based in Kingston, Canada, Samantha Lowe has been writing for publication since 2006. She has written articles for the "Mars' Hill" newspaper and copy for various design projects. Her design and copy for the "Mars' Hill" won the Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker award in 2008. Lowe holds an Honors BA from Trinity Western University, and a MSc in Occupational Therapy from Queen's University where she is currently doing her PhD.