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Westport Island’s Squam Creek Reopens

After nearly a 15-year hiatus

Squam Creek, Westport IslandAt a time when bad news is more common than good for much of Maine’s fishing industry, Westport Island’s Shellfish Committee led by Chair, Lincoln Richardson, is sharing high fives. After almost 15 years of closures, Squam Creek is open for clamming to start off the Island’s shellfish season which began on May 1. For now, the Creek flats will only be open until June 1. But thanks to the collaboration of the Shellfish Committee and the State Department of Marine Resources (DMR), there is hope that Squam Creek will reopen in September for a fall harvest.

The first license holders to dig are happy to report an abundance of clams compared to what they have been seeing on Westport flats these past few years. For a $15 recreational license good from May 1 to April 30, Island residents can dig as much as a peck a day while Squam Creek is open — or dig in other open flats throughout the year (closures can be checked daily on the DMR website; licenses are available at the Town Office). That’s a pretty good deal for steamers, “chowdah” and clam you-name-it.

family clamming at squam creek, early 1900'sSquam Creek has been the Island’s most accessible and abundant recreational site for clamming for much of its history. A State Shellfish Population Survey in 2004, resulted in a one-year closure for reseeding. That closure turned into another year to allow clams to reach their “legal size” of 2 inches. After an extensive resurvey in 2006, the flats reopened for a time and were soon restricted to recreational digging to continue restoration to healthy levels.

In 2006, the State passed a bill for “water quality and Bio-toxin sampling and analysis”. Subsequently in 2007 — soon after the clams had returned to healthy numbers, Squam Creek was reclassified and then closed ‎in October of that year due to poor water quality. The source of water quality degradation was never specifically determined — some thought it might be a beaver dam, ducks or other water fowl. Squam Creek’s flats have been closed ever since — until this month. May 2014 is a good month for shellfish lovers and an Island tradition…

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