The best months for clamming were the summer months. Some people would move their families to the shore and set up their clamming business from tents along the beach. During this time, packet boats with groceries and other supplies would work up and down the beds, supplying the clammers who could not leave their clam beds to come to town. Some preferred the winter, though, and clammed through the ice using “shoulder” or “scissor” rakes.
Replenishing the Beds
By 1914 some one hundred clamming rigs were working on Lake Pepin. In 1914 to 1915, it is estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 tons of clams were taken from the lake. This over fishing of clams led to a five year moratorium, beginning in 1919, in the hope of replenishing the beds.
Clothing & Jewelry
Why were clams important? The shells were sold to buyers who had the shells drilled. The “blanks,” the drilled material, would become buttons for shirts and other clothing items. Some shells were used as jewelry. Clammers could receive $7.50 to $65 per ton for shells.
As plastics came into use and as clams began to be harder to find, the clamming and button industries declined.