Surf clams are often the “fried clams” featured on menus across the country. This is the most important clam species, by volume, in the United States. Surf clams average 4 1/2 to 8 inches across. They’re taken by hydraulic dredges from sand or gravel habitats in depths of 10 to 300 feet. The fast-growing clam matures in five to seven years and is found from Long Island to southern Virginia. More than half come from New Jersey, and New York is a significant contributor. Surf clams are too big and too coarse to be eaten whole like other clams. They are not sold live, either. Instead, they are processed onshore. Two-thirds of the surf clam’s shucked weight is used. Half of that is the “tongue,” which is used primarily for fried clam strips. The other half is the meat that runs around the shell, plus an adductor muscle that opens and closes the shell. It is ground or chopped and used for chowders, bisques and sauces.