The beach was starting to get as foggy as it was inland. At one point I looked at Gary’s head, and there were little beads of water hanging off his hair – and he HADN’T gone swimming! Al said his glasses kept getting fogged up.
A guy we passed on the path, who turned out to be one half of a couple who were night fishing, had told us there were plenty of shells (I did a little dance!), and there were. They were just pen shells, is all! The area to the right of the pier was a complete carnage of pen shells, interspersed with hovering, bloated egg casings that looked for all the world like “extreme” fettuccine.
Quickly, we all fanned out with our flashlights to see what we could see. Some stuff was clearly visible, but a lot of stuff was found by moving the carnage aside with the stick end of the net-on-a-stick to see what lurked underneath. There were a great quantity of open calico clams showing their little orange bodies, which fooled me more than once into thinking I’d found a true tulip. Occassionally, one of them would snap or chatter, and in the deeper water around the pilons of the pier, I saw a few “swimming” by doing their chattering thing. It was sort of like a little water ballet. They are surprisingly graceful, for something that doesn’t have any arms or legs.
I got some nice sized mac n cheese, maybe 3-3.5″, and five true tulips, the largest of which is about the same size. Also found a matching-set venus ray clam, as well as a quantity of figs, whelks, and banded tulips. There were a few live tulips here and there, both banded and true; one that Gary found was a monster dark-specked true, and Al told us about a huge red one that was also live. Both of those got thrown back. Every time I found a live one on the beach, I threw it into the shallows, with the hope that it would escape less scrupulous collectors (or else perish the rest of the way, thereby becoming something for us to find another day).
The people fishing on the pier had this annoying little yappy dog with them, who would periodically break the fog-enshrouded silence with a bit of unnecessary barking. At one point, I had ducked under to the other side, and was poking around the pilons when I heard lots of splashing. I looked up to see a huge net dangling over the side of the pier; something inside was struggling, and I thought the people had finally gotten sick of the yappy dog and decided to dunk it! Turns out they were net fishing and got some HUGE catches. Up they pulled the net and plunked it down on the boards. The fish flailed around, thumping loudly on the pier. I hear net fishing is illegal off that pier…
As the tide started to come back in, other people started to arrive with flashlights. But we were there first! The very last thing I found was the bigger of my true tulips. It was funny, I was searching with my flashlight just where the waves were lapping, and there was a guy coming my way doing the same. We said “good morning” and passed one another, and I found the true just where he’d been looking seconds before. The incoming tide had the effect of moving things around, and it was similar in color to the infernal pen shells, so it probably wasn’t visible when that guy was looking.