boite à outils

Île Callot, and the tide is high

On the tiny island of Île Callot, near Carantec, a crowd is gathering for the great tides so that they can go on a hunt for shellfish...

It’s your lucky day!

It’s the last Thursday of September. Late sunshine fills the skies - and there’s a bonus those who love shellfish, especially those who love gathering their own: it’s the time of the great tides.
The great tides are when the difference between high and low tide (the coéfficient in French) is over 95; today it’s an impressive 113. Yet the crowds still have to be patient: with the low tide due at 2.24pm, the perfect time to head out on the sands around Île Callot will be 12.30pm.
There’s no need to spend hours walking the island and tiring out your legs when you can find what you’re looking for in the damp stretches of sand exposed at low tide. And to prove it, you simply need to take a look along the coast around the island at this time - you’ll see groups of posteriors turnedto the skies as people bend over searching for their treasure. But what on earth makes so many people become so absorbed in their activity - especially in such a pose?
pêche à pied en Baie de Morlaix, Bretagne

Around the Île Callot, you can find cockles and clams - and that is what attracts all the attention. It’s not an endurance sport, it’s not even a terribly difficult leisure activity, even for a complete novice: you simply dig down a few centimetres in the damp sand and you’ll soon come across your first edible shellfish.
pêche à pied en Baie de Morlaix, Bretagne
Larger, darker and with a smoother texture than cockles are the clams; they prefer muddy ground and require a little more effort but they are well worth it. The first step is to look in the sande for two little holes close together (for the female clams) or a little further apart (for male clams). The clues are easier to see when the tide is coming back up. Once you’ve spotted the little holes, you need to dig quickly down about 10 centimetres in order to grab your prize.

pêche à pied en Baie de Morlaix, Bretagne Practical details each person has his or her own method and tools for the job: with a rake, a trowel, or a fork, even with your bare hands, you can still come away with a full bucket! (The only thing we’d mention is that rakes are likey to harm the beach and its ecosystems, including the organisms often invisible to the naked eye but that live on the beach).

One hour later, the stooping and bending begins to take its toll on everyone’s backs - but the fishing isn’t over yet! Now it’s time for the winkles! Head for the rocky parts of Callot as winkles are little molluscs that in and among the rocks, even in the seaweed. Gathering them is relatively easy, you simply need to know which are the right sort: these are black in colour with a pointed end.

In the pools around the rocks you can also find shrimps of all varieties, which you’ll need to catch with a fishing net. Of course, you might not get them all...

Always keep an eye on the rising tide - you certainly don’t want to get trapped on the island, so it’s time to head for the nearest kitchen - there’s nothing better than truly fresh seafood that you’ve caught yourself!

pêche à pied en Baie de Morlaix, Bretagne

* a little reminder to help you calculate your trips to Île Callot: take the time of day and the time of the low tide; allow two hours to cross the pathways from the mainland and two hours to get yourself back again. That way you shouldn’t end up with water around your knees!

Some rules for shellfish gathering:

Finding your own fresh shellfish is a fun activity but it is governed by local laws; here are a few of them, notably the minimum sizes you must respect, quantities, techniques and permitted times.

For food-lovers, a recipe for Clam Risotto

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 300g risotto rice
  • 1 kg of clams
  • 1 litre of stock
  • 150ml white wine
  • 1 dessertspoon of olive oil
  • A clove of garlic (if you like it)
  • Two shallots or small onions
  • Parsley
  • 100g parmesan
  • One or two dessertspoons of mascarpone cheese (if you really want to spoil yourself…)

Cooking the clams
Wash the clams by plunging them briskly in fresh water or by leaving them for two hours in salted water.
Brown the shallots or onions with the garlic in the olive oil, either in a large wok or saucepan. When golden, add half the glass of wine.
Add the raw clams and cook until they completely open naturally
Set aside the cooking water as you might want to add this to the stock.
Shell the clams (you might like to leave a couple in their shells to decorate the finished dish).
Set the clams aside while you prepare the rice.

For the risotto
In another saucepan, place the onions or shallots then add the rice.
Stir until the rice begins to turn translucent.
Add the other half glass of wine then the stock, a little at a time.
Once all the stock has been absorbed by the rice, you can add the shelled clams.
Finish the dish by adding the parmesan and a couple of spoons of mascarpone.