How to harvest wild Maine mussels


Harvesting Wild Mussels

While you need a permit to go clamming in Maine, you can harvest up to two bushels of wild mussels without one. While always a good practice to ask the local town office what you can take, here are some tips for foraging mussels:


Get Close to the Water:

Mussels are more likely to contain grit and pearls when they’ve been out of water. So get close to the water in low tide. Even in winter, the stronger current may leave those areas unfrozen. Wear boots with good tread if possible, since algae often makes the ground slippery.


Go for Small and Stuck:

You may be tempted to go for the big guys. Don’t. The smaller mussels are less likely to contain grit. You want the live ones, which will be closed and stuck to the ground or each other, making it easier to grab clusters. You can use your hands, but a dull blade may help for prying them off the ground.


Grab a Bag or Bucket:

Mussels don’t bite, so bring a bag or bucket to take home the catch. If you have a longer trip, bring a cooler with ice. Just be ready for it to smell like shellfish. If you’re unfamiliar with the local water conditions, double-check to make sure you’re harvesting them from an uncontaminated water source.


Get the Kitchen Ready:

Soak the mussels in fresh water for 20 minutes. Discard any that have broken shells or have opened. With your hands, yank out the fibers known as the beard. Prepare them any number of ways (steaming in garlic, butter and white wine is the standby).