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Town of Dennis, Massachusetts
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Frequently Asked Questions
1.      How much are Recreational Shellfish Permits?

The recreational shellfish permit fees are as follows
  • Household Permits (Residents and Property Owners)                $20.00
  • Residents over 70 years of age                                          $3.00*
  • Non-Residential Permit                                                  $65.00
* please note that if you purchase an Over 70 permit, the owner of said permit MUST be present during shellfishing.

2.   Can I take someone out shellfishing with me?

As a shellfish permit holder, you are more than welcome to have someone accompany you while shellfishing. Please remember that you are only allowed one limit per permit (please refer to the Recreational Shellfish Regulations).

3.      What is open for shellfishing?

There is always some form of shellfishing available year round in the Town of Dennis.  Please refer to the Recreational Shellfish Regulations for available dates and species.  Also, there is a helpful link on the Shellfish Webpage with Maps of the areas.

4.      What are the hours of operation for shellfishing?

A permit holder may shellfish on the appropriate day between the hours of Sunrise and Sunset.

5.      What do in need to go shellfishing?

All shellfishing requires a permit.  In addition, certain tools will make the harvest more rewarding.  Here are some useful tools:

Long handled tool with curved tines at the base (with or without basket)
Allows the digger to stand and scratch the surface to a depth of six inches, which is where the animals can be found.
Steamer Clams (Soft Shell)
Razor Clams
A short handled hoe, which has tines of about 12 inches in length.
Allows the digger to dig a trench about 10 inches deep and uncover the clams.
May be harvested by hand or using a quahog scratcher
These animals do not burrow.  They live on the surface and may be harvested by hand.  When searching for these species, be mindful of the fact that your activity will likely turn the water muddy (Much of the technique uses the sense of feel).

Be sure to protect your feet with boots or old sneakers.  Broken shell fragments can inflict a serious cut.  

A hat, insect repellent and sunscreen are also recommended.

6.      Where can I go shellfishing?

Each species has specific dates for harvesting.  Please check the recreational shellfish regulations for the dates.  Useful maps are located on the webpage for each specific species of shellfish.

7.      What will I be able to harvest?

Generally, quahogs, steamers, oysters, blue mussels and scallops are available in their respective season.

8.      What is the difference between a clam and a quahog?

What's in a name?  The Native American name for the hard shell clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) is Quahog (also spelled quahaug, quohog and others) and the name is unique to the Cape and Islands region, as well as Rhode Island.  Elsewhere, along the East Coast, it is referred to as a "clam".  Locally, the term "clam" is used to describe the soft shell or steamer clam (Mya arenaria).  Just to confuse matters further, the younger, smallest (barely legal size) quahog is designated Littleneck.  Somewhat larger specimens of the same animal are called Cherrystone.  Both are typically eaten on the half shell.  The largest quahogs are called Chowders.

9.      How much can I take home?

All limits for each particular species are described in the Recreational Shellfish regulations.  Each permit is allowed one limit per week.  Any number of helpers can accompany the family members in whose name the permit is issued.  However, the transfer of the permit to another person who is not normally living with the licensee is prohibited.  Other species also have catch limits and are described in our regulations.

10.     How about "Senior Permits"?

A person may obtain an "Over 70" permit, if they meet the age requirement.  The cost of this permit is $3.00.  The limits remain the same of those with a "Household" license, and all other regulations do apply.  Again, the person in whose name the permit is issued MUST BE PRESENT.

11.     Is shellfish safe to eat?

The waters from which shellfish may be harvested are tested on a regular basis to insure public safety.  This protocol is established by Federal guidelines and is implemented by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Should the index exceed the threshold for safety, then the area will be closed to harvest and will be posted and patrolled.  Eating raw shellfish may pose potential health risk for some individuals and consumers should be mindful of the potential health effects.  Occasionally, persons may have allergic reactions to eating shellfish.

12.     What about Red Tide?

Red Tide in New England waters is somewhat of a misnomer as it has no discernable red color.  however, the term is used to describe Harmful Algae Blooms which occur worldwide and which can render shellfish which filter these algae to become toxic to warm blooded animals- such as humans.  Although not perfectly understood, we do know that the most common Red Tide occurs locally during the spring months although not every year.  The algae which is the problem suddenly grows very quickly and since shellfish are filter feeders, they consume it, and concentrate a toxic chemical in their tissue.  It does not affect the shellfish, but if a warm blooded animal were to eat the shellfish, it has the potential to disrupt the central nervous system function of heartbeat and breathing.  This phenomenon has evidently been happening for many years and was understood by the Native Americans so there is no clear link to pollution or other environmental degradation.  Testing of the shellfish is done on a weekly basis to insure the safety of harvesters, and the protocol for re-opening an area affected by Red Tide is very conservative.  No known instances of Red Tide poisoning have occurred in Eastham, although closures have been frequent in the past decade.

Dennis Town Seal
Town of Dennis, Massachusetts
685 Route 134
South Dennis, MA 02660
PH: 508.394.8300    FAX: 508.394.8309
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