The soft shelled clam is different in structure from the hard shelled clam.It has a thinner shell and is white with a soft chalky texture,but is hinged loosely and gapes widely.
However it's outstanding characteristics is it's very long syphon which enables it to remain hidden in the mud or sand while projecting the syphon into the water.
When the tide goes out it remains in the mud,having withdrawn it's syphon and waits until the turn of the tide.
Sometimes when approached it will eject water and can be spotted on tidal flats.
It's maximum size is around three inches long.
Spawning occurs during the summer months from june to the end of august so that the water over the flats is well supplied with small free swimming forms which are young clams.At first they are very fragile and are extreemly small ,taking around 300 to make an inch.
They swim through the water by a spinning motion or are carried by the tides.
Those that survive develope a muscular foot,and between the third and sixth day of life the young clam no longer swims actively,but spends life on the bottom.
They are as large as a grain of sand and rather than burrow into the bottom they spin a tough thread known as a byssus which is anchored to a stone or piece of weed.
Sometimes casting off it's byssus and creeping around on it's foot.Star fish,crabs and fish will eat them at this time.
When it grows to 1/4 to 1/2 inch it will burrow into the sand and at the latter size will lose it's ability to secreat byssus threads and takes up a sub terranium existance permanently.
Soft shelled clams are most often steamed before eating and their shell is thin and brittle as to make them easy prey for fish.
It makes up about three quarters of the clam catch in the area north of Boston.
The soft shelled clam or long clam predominates the shellfish species from Cape Cod to Cape Ann.
Maine is the leading producer of clams,second is Massachusetts.New Hampshire and Rhode Island rank third.
Before the New England settlers fixed on it as food,the Indians had utilized the clam freely.
In recent years,Maine and the fisheries have developed an intensive research and conservation program for the clam resources,including the determination of the basic resource,the effects of transplanting,the deterioration because of predators such as crabs,sea birds and cockles.The encroachment of mussels on the clam flats and so forth.
Clams establish themselves best in areas having firm flats.No shifting sands,good water circulation no algae,silt and predators.
It is towards the enlargement and protection of the areas that the program is directed.