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Where To Find Freshwater Mussels in Far North Queensland

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by Lisa Morgan (subscribe) life as it is meant to be experienced - outside the rat race, barefooted and content in one's own skin.
Published February 2nd 2013
On the hunt for shellfish delicacies
Broken Shells of Freshwater Mussels
Broken shells on the banks are a sign of mussels
When we returned to one of our favourite mussel spots, we discovered the water levels had risen thanks to all the recent downpours.

We dug around at the edges for a good 15 minutes not finding any mussels. In the end, we went deeper in with the water up to our necks and found them buried in the mud.

We had our work cut out for us this trip, finding mussels with our feet and carefully picking them up with our feet, or diving down to scrabble around in the mud until we ran out of air! Mussels are always worth it though!

So you are probably wondering where to hunt freshwater mussels. I won't give away too much as that detracts from the pleasure of hunter-gatherer adventures. However, here are some signs to look out for.

Broken Shells of Freshwater Mussels
Tinaroo Dam on the FNQ Tablelands
Freshwater mussels can be found along the edges of rivers, billabongs, and lakes around Far North Queensland. They like soft sandy soil or mud to burrow in. One particular prolific Queensland variety - Velesunio ambiguous, is found in bodies of still water like dams and billabongs.

Broken Shells of Freshwater Mussels
Broken shells can be half buried or muddy so look closely.
Short of getting barefooted to feel around in the water for tips of mussels jutting out of the mud (which can be difficult to differentiate from rocks to the newbie), there is a quicker way.

Scan the river or dam banks for pieces of mussel shell. Freshwater mussels are a favourite food for rakali (nocturnal water rats) who drag the mussels out of the water to open in the sun. If you see shells, persist until you find the mussels!

The best tools for finding mussels are your bare feet and your hands. Feeling around once mussels are suspected is usually the only way to locate them in muddy or deep water.

Sometimes it is useful to have a sturdy stick of short length for a digging instrument mud often creates a suction force when you try to pull out the clams.

It is also handy to have a bucket of clean freshwater at hand to store the mussels in until you cook them. This is also known as purging see how to purge freshwater mussels.

As a nudge in the right direction, two places in Far North Queensland where you can find freshwater mussels are the Cattana Wetlands in Cairns, and the Tinaroo Dam up on the Tablelands. Mind you, there are crocodiles in the wetlands so don't go traipsing in the water's edge looking for mussels!

Got your freshwater mussels? Check out how to cook freshwater mussels here, with a bonus recipe included!
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Why? Because gathering your own food makes food scrumptious!
When: Anytime!
Where: All over Far North Queensland
Cost: Free
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