Channeled Whelk
Live Channeled Whelks [Busycotypus canaliculatus, formerly Busycon canaliculatum]

This light shelled whelk is native to the east coast of North America, from Cape Cod, Massachusetts south to northern Florida, and has been introduced to San Francisco Bay. This whelk feeds on hard shelled clams, which it pries open with the edge of its shell, which tends to be chipped as in the photo. They are preyed upon by blue crabs.

The photo specimens were purchased live from a large Asian market in Alhambra, California. The largest was 6-1/4 inches long and weighed 8-3/8 ounces. Yield was 2-3/4 ounces (33%) of flesh after steaming long enough to release it.

More on Sea Snails


Removed from shell
Removed from shell

Finding the mouth
Finding the mouth (Kellet's whelk shown)

Spliting the gut
Splitting the gut (Kellet's whelk shown)

Recipe ready
Recipe Ready


  1. Let your whelks relax for a while, then check them to make sure they're alive. If you poke them they should respond by pulling tighter into their shells. Discard any dead ones and scrub the live ones under cold running water with a stiff brush to remove extraneous muck and miscellaneous sea life.

  2. Let the whelks relax while you boil up a big pot of salted water, then toss them in and bring it back up to a boil as quickly as possible. Once it's back to a boil let them cook for about 15 minutes.

  3. Cool the whelks in cold water until you can handle them easily. you can use any appropriate tool to get under the operculum (the hard door that closes after the snail) and pull it out of the shell. The whole snail may come out intact, or the edible part may break off leaving the rest in the shell. The photo to the left shows the complete contents of the shell (left) and just the edible parts (right).

  4. Under cold running water wash out any gooky stuff. Rubbery stuff is all edible including siphons, but gooky parts are not.

  5. Find the whelk's mouth. It's right between two short tentacles. The photo shows the operculum below, the foot facing you and the mouth just above the foot. Now insert your filleting knife into the mouth sharp side up and split the gut open so you can wash out the last of the gooky stuff.

  6. Pull off the operculum and you should now have a nice clean and edible hunk of whelk. In general it's not so tough as to need pounding unless you want it extra tender.You can eat it immediately or freeze for later.

Removed from shell These shells can be attractive if cleaned up.

1.   Cook your snails and remove the meat for whatever use you have in mind.
2.   Return the shells to the pot and cover well with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for a long time. Occasionally tilt them pointy end down under the water to fill them.
3.   Cool and drain. Shake the crud out by this means. Hold the shell pointy end down and fill with hot water. Turn pointy end up and shake up and down vigorously. Repeat until you're sure all the crud has been shaken out.
4.   Scrub the shells with a stiff bristle brush and by whatever other means you have, until they are clean.
4.   Return to the pot and cover with water. Add bleach to about 20% of the liquid. Turn the shells pointy end down under water to fill them.
5.   Bring to a boil and simmer until they are a nice color.
6.   Rub them with mineral oil to keep them bright and preserve the colors.

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