Mussels are incredible creatures that have a filtration effect on the water. Zebra mussels filter one quart of water daily, which considerably clears up the water and improves diving conditions. Unfortunately, Zebra mussels reproduce so quickly and prolifically that they clog water-intake systems and municipal plants if left unchecked.
You can legally scuba dive for mussels both in the ocean and freshwater. If you have the correct permits, observe bag limits, and follow the rules your scuba diving community has taught you, you will have a memorable experience and a chance to eat your food.
It is great fun scuba diving on wrecks and then having the opportunity to “hunt” for your meal which you can prepare when you return to the surface. The main takeaway is that diving for mussels is enjoyable and worthwhile as long as you follow all of the safety processes.
You Can Get Mussels On Scuba
Mussels are very easy to dive for because they grow almost anywhere; they have been called the ocean lawn.
All the diver has to do is remove them from the hard surface they are attached to, put them in the divers’ bag, and head for the surface.
Useful Hints When Scuba Diving For Mussels.
The following are a few useful hints learned over the years.
Don’t Sort Them Underwater
You mustn’t waste time, and valuable air, selecting the perfect mussel while you are in the dive.
Take as many as possible for as long as you safely can with your oxygen supply.
The air on the surface is free and plentiful, so use the time when you get back on the dive boat you can select the ones you want and throw the rest away.
Be Greedy And Take More Than You Think You Need
When you return to the dive boat, you will throw a lot of the catch away, including any ones where the shells are not closed and of the incorrect size.
Be Careful To Manage Your Air And The Weight
Make sure you stay near the dive master (if you are diving in a group), keep your eye on your oxygen quantity, and stay close to the anchor line as you return to the boat.
This precaution is important because you will be surprised at how heavy a big bag of muscles is and the amount of air you will need in your BC to lift yourself and it to the surface.
If you have a lift bag that has the capacity, you can also use this to send the mussels to the surface. Of course, finding a lift bag with any level of waves action or current will be challenging.
Collect The Mussels From The Highest Point
If you are diving on a wreck or other underwater feature, do you mussel fishing from the highest point above the sand and mud below.
It is not as much of a concern if diving in the ocean as those mussels tend to be cleaner.
Back On The Dive Boat
When you get back topside and into the dive boat, it is time to inspect your haul.
First, sort the mussels into those you want to keep and those you will throw back.
A fibrous material attaches to the mussels called its beard. The beard should be left attached until later because pulling it out will cause it to die and spoil.
Depending on the mussel species, the optimal size to keep is between 1 ½ inches and 2 1/2 inches. While the bigger ones seem more impressive, they will not taste as good.
If any mussels shells are open, add these to the pile to be thrown back. Throw all the rejects back, for which the fish will thank you.
Look Out For Little Critters
While you work in the mussels, watch out for other parasites.
If you keep a careful lookout, you will see many parasitic creatures, including
- Tiny starfish
- Clam worms
- Other miniature residents
As you would normally not see some of these parasites, give them a look over, and possibly take a photograph with your ever handy macro lens!
When you have done with them, throw them all overboard as well.
Let The Boat Clean Them
Request the captain, or dive masters, permission for the next section.
Place the mussels you have kept into a mesh catch bag and tie a rope around it.
With a rope tied securely to the catch bag, toss it overboard while the boat moves and leave it rinsing for a quarter of an hour.
Don’t put more mussels in the bag than it has capacity for, and don’t leave them riding the surf for too long because all you will have been mashed mussels mixed with bits of bone.
When you return to the cabin, RV, B&B, or hotel, put the bag of mussels into a fridge (on a bed of ice) on ice in a cooler.
If you want to keep them for more than a few days, you can freeze them without any issue.
Check What The Laws Are In The Area You Dive
Check with the local authorities what regulations apply to collecting mussels during a scuba dive.
Many regions require a license and impose a bag limit per diver per day. Regulations will often be differentiated dependent on the type of mussel.
Most states forbid braille, crowfoot bars, or other mechanical methods and only allow hand-picking.
Freshwater mussels, alive or dead, may not be taken for later sale.
What Type Of Mussels Are Available In America
The different types of mussels available in Northern America include
- Zebra Mussels are a freshwater mussel species found in America’s lakes and rivers.
- Blue Mussels
- Rabbit’s foot Mussels
- Snuffbox Mussels
- Horse Mussel
The Zebra mussels are native to the water in the Caspian Sea region and are an alien species in America.
It is thought that the Zebra mussels were accidentally introduced when a Russian freighter emptied its ballast tanks, along with the Zebra Mussels larva.
The US and Canadian governments now ban bilge-water dumping, and ships entering St. Lawrence and Hudson rivers must dump their ballast 200 miles offshore.
You can get mussels on while scuba diving, and as long as you observe some basic safety precautions, it is a fun and safe way to collect your next meal. As a cardinal safety rule, always watch your oxygen levels and keep your eye on the divemaster.
Ensure that you observe local laws and other regulations.