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Clam fishing in the Îles de la Madeleine!

There is a very particular technique for cockle fishing, you know… Do you know it? Some will be surprised! Let’s find out how and where to go clam fishing in the Magdalen Islands.

We don’t do it anyhow in the archipelago and I was determined to try this essential activity during my trip to the Magdalen Islands.

To get started, I followed the guide from La Salicorne resort, but it is possible to do it alone without any problem! Here’s how:

How to fish for cockles in the Magdalen Islands?

First you have to locate small holes in the sand while the tide is low and the water is moving away from the seashore.

Cockles use these cavities to breathe. Watch out for false holes! I have become a master in the art of spotting them, those…

When the hole of choice is spotted, one scratches in the sand in order to dig a donut-shaped roof around the famous jackpot.

Seaside at Old Harry - Îles de la Madeleine

Each time you reach a certain depth, you then gently remove the middle part of a handful, much like you would with a muffin top.

Slowly, by dint of digging and repeating this movement, we see the shell of this little clam (also called the common clam) appear, sometimes at the risk of our fingertips clinging to it! So be careful of your hands in the process.

In addition, when it has been found (and not a broken end of an abandoned shell), the shell must not be rushed too much, otherwise it will break and we will injure “the beast”.


Sunset at Parc de Gros-Cap campsite in the Magdalen Islands

For inspiration before you set off on your trip, listen to one of the Adventurer Travelers films and stories online from the comfort of your own home. I really love these films, because they are made by real travelers, with passion. I enjoyed my ten years of going to see them at the cinema here in Quebec so much that I let myself be convinced to make my own film on the Magdalen Islands.


It all looks very complicated, but I assure you that it’s child’s play and that’s a good thing to say, because you quickly get a taste for the game, your knees in the sand, your feet in the cool water. on occasion, an experience that is part of the “must do in the Magdalen Islands!”

What tools to use for cockle fishing?

Why do we proceed manually? Because we want to avoid breaking the shell of the hull! It is therefore not necessary to have special tools for cockle fishing, except perhaps a bucket or a bowl that you fill with water to put them in during the picking.

However, some people use shovels, spades or even siphons.

Yes yes.

A siphon. A toilet opener!

It’s quite comical to watch.

Although it is no longer very common, it happens to see this technique here and there, but it is a little too drastic for the picking of this little mollusk, although crazy!

Perfect low tide for shellfish fishing in the Magdalen Islands

What does a cockle fishing experience look like?

What is the most pleasant, however, is not the quest for the biggest hull, the easiest to find, the most fruitful holes… On the contrary, happiness is to be in the Magdalen Islands surrounded by this spectacular panorama specific to this maritime region of Quebec that I love so much!

Sand crescent moons stick out of the water here and there to cut off the sparkling effects of the mirror-like sea.

Beneath my feet, as I go to the water to rinse the “fished” shells, I feel the rills, the patterns traced on the sand, tickle my feet and the salty air penetrate my nostrils.

That’s happiness, feet in the sea, nostrils filled with salty air and chest bulging with pride at having learned to fish for cockles like a real Madelinienne. After all, don’t be afraid of a little mud!

Clam fishing in the Magdalen Islands
- Pointe-de-l'Est - Magdalen Islands
Cockles - Pointe-de-l'Est - Magdalen Islands
Clam fishing platter
Landscape of shellfish and clams

Where to fish for cockles in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine?

Where can you pick up cockles in the archipelago? What are the best places for clam fishing in the Magdalen Islands?

It’s easy to find a clam flat on the islands, with its 300 km of beaches… But the most common places are:

  • Fatima Platter
  • Pointe-aux-Loups reef flat
  • Gros-Cap Park reef flat
  • Pointe-de-l’Est wildlife reserve: on one side, the low forest typical of Pointe-de-l’Est between Grosse-Île and Grande-Entrée and, on the other, the bay overlooking the distance on the northern dune where the rays of the setting sun dance.
  • “Cliff” of Grande-Entrée

In short, inside the bays where the water is very low or completely disappears when the tide goes down.

Facebook group for traveling to the Magdalen Islands, Quebec, Canada
Click here to visit the group!

When to go clam fishing?

Fishing for clams in the Magdalen Islands is practiced when the tide is low or when it is falling, on flat surfaces where it is easy to see the small holes.

Ideally, go when there is little wind or no rain, as the movements on the water make it difficult to see the holes under the thin surface.

Spring tides, the tides that occur from a few days before to a few days after the full moon, are the ones that would seem to be the most prolific for cockle picking.

Sunset La Salicorne - Magdalen Islands

How to prepare the cockles?

To eat cockles, it’s simple! Simply soak them in seawater for 24 hours to ensure that the sand in their shells is released. Ideally, we do it in sea water!

In the Magdalen Islands, they are eaten in many ways, whether simple, like moldsor in soup, in pâté or, even better, in pot-en-pot, the emblematic dish of the archipelago.

To preserve them, many people can them or freeze them to eat them all year round!

Cooked cockles - Auberge la Salicorne

This intangible heritage of recreational cockle picking is definitely one of the must-do experiences in the Magdalen Islands.

Have you ever fished for cockles in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine?

Practical guide for a trip to the Île de la Madeleine

How to get there in the Magdalen Islands?
Car, plane, bus, ferry, cruise to the Magdalen Islands… There is no shortage of options for getting to the archipelago. I addressed all these transports in the article How to get to the Magdalen Islands for all budgets.

Car rental in the Magdalen Islands
You are probably used to using car rental comparators like AutoEurope, Budget, Carigami, Europcar or RentalCars, but for car rental in the Magdalen Islands, the best way to proceed is to rent directly, because the companies are managed locally and you will therefore have a better service. My “adopted family” there owns the Island Rental Agency, the biggest local company with cars, vans, motorcycles, scooters and Spyders for rent. Tell them I sent you and they’ll give you a good deal!

Where to sleep in the Magdalen Islands?
On the accommodation side, book a room or a bed with Agoda, AirBNB, Booking or Hotels.com, the most common platforms, which I use almost every trip. As for youth hostels, you will also find them on HostelWorld! However, on the islands, nothing better than to go directly to the small inns, houses for rent and lodges by the sea!

I invite you to read other articles on the Magdalen Islands:

Have a good trip!

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About Jennifer Dore Dallas

Jennifer Doré Dallas is behind the travel blog Me, my shoes, but she is also a content marketing consultant, presents travel conferences, does freelance writing and is the author of a dozen Lonely Planet guides and Ulysses. When she is not exploring the planet on the lookout for new experiences, she travels to Quebec, to the four corners of her native province of Canada, to discover the land and good addresses where to sleep, where to eat and to visit, from the Magdalen Islands to the North Shore via Montreal, the Laurentians, Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Montérégie where she lives, to name a few! She loves to make those who don’t dare yet want to leave! Its philosophy or slogan: save where possible, spend where it matters, whatever your travel budget. In short, travel better, for less, more often or longer! Jennifer loves hostels as much as luxury on occasion, but the most important thing for her is to get the best value for her money while meeting interesting people! Obsessed with Ziploc bags and her SteriPen, she absolutely hates umbrellas. The objects she can’t part with? His travel diary and his camera. His economical hobby: markets and grocery stores. She is also the founder of the 6 to 8 travel community, of Voyage numériQC, specializing in content and networking between influencers and tourism companies and Chasing Poutine, an English travel blog about vacations in Quebec.

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