NEW BEDFORD — At least a couple dozen people waded in the water Sunday at Fort Taber Park, digging for three kinds of quahogs: little necks, cherrystones and chowders.

There was a red flag in the distance, signaling that the shellfish bed was closed. 

Even though there is no quahogging allowed on Sundays in the city, the Buzzards Bay Coalition got special permission and attendees didn’t need permits because it was a catch and release event, according to coalition Senior Educator Cassie Lawson.

However, with a yellow flag up, those with a shellfish permit can harvest quahogs and eat them because the water quality has improved over time.

Thomas Ringuette, New Bedford’s shellfish warden said “We have rain closures just to be on the safe side,” because of surface runoff and possible bacteria.

The shellfish beds are closed for five days for safety after a rainstorm and the water is tested once a week, he said. Shellfish also get tested up in the harbor where no shellfishing is allowed; it's only permitted on the peninsula, according to Ringuette.

Coming upon his sixth year as warden, Ringuette said water quality has substantially improved since he was a kid.

The red flag is up due to rain water most of the time, but not always. Last year, a bad tide that came in from Rhode Island caused a shutdown for about a month and a half, he recalled.

“You guys get the prize for most hardcore quahoggers,” Lawson said to a family because they kept digging during a temporary downpour while most people left.

“And the wettest,” added Jeannine Louro who co-facilitated the program.

“My kids love the beach,” said Melissa DeAlmeida, wearing waders. She helped her son Nathan, five, catch quahogs. She was also with her daughters Sophia and Olivia and Melissa Pimentel with her daughter Madison.

Olivia and Madison stayed in the water even after their family members got out, maintaining the hunt for quahogs. 

The coalition provided rakes, peck baskets and waders. “As you can see, it’s very rewarding when you dig up your own quahog,” Lawson told a reporter as she watched attendees in the water with their findings.

“Don’t be afraid to come down,” Ringuette said. Residents can get permits at city hall for $12 and nonresidents can get one for $50.

 

Follow Aimee Chiavaroli on Twitter @AimeeC_SCT.