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Dig those clams! Season opens at last

After months of toxin-related delays, Peninsula season starts Wednesday

Observer staff report

Published on April 12, 2017 12:00AM

Last changed on April 12, 2017 7:11PM

The morning clam digs of spring are popular with residents and tourists alike, with more potential dates ahead.

OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

The morning clam digs of spring are popular with residents and tourists alike, with more potential dates ahead.

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LONG BEACH and OCEAN PARK — Ending the longest closure since 2002, state shellfish managers have approved a five-day razor clam dig set to begin Wednesday on morning tides on the Long Beach Peninsula. Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches also will be open.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife approved the opening after marine toxin tests showed that clams at all four beaches are safe to eat.

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, noted that the upcoming dig marks the first time Long Beach/Ocean Park beaches will open for clam digging this season, which began in October. Marine toxin levels at the beach had exceeded state health standards since last fall, but not anymore, Ayres said.

“We know that people have been waiting to dig razor clams at Long Beach for a long time, and we’re pleased we can finally add that beach to the line-up,” Ayres said. “Toxin levels there and at the other three beaches are all well within state health standards.”

Tests on Sunday, April 9, found a maximum level of domoic toxin of 10 parts per million in Peninsula clams, well below the 20 ppm threshold at which clamming is not safe.


Digging times


Long Beach and Twin Harbors will both be open for five straight days of digging, while Copalis and Mocrocks will open on alternating days. All four beaches will be open on morning tides, with no digging allowed after noon.

The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates and morning low tides:

• April 12, Wednesday, 8:08 a.m., 0.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Long Beach

• April 13, Thursday, 8:43 a.m., 0.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach

• April 14, Friday, 9:18 a.m., 0.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach

• April 15, Saturday, 9:55 a.m., 0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Long Beach

• April 16, Sunday, 10:36 a.m., 0.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, Long Beach


2017-18 licenses required


All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2017-18 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

Ayres noted that Long Beach has also been added to a dig tentatively scheduled later this month along with the other three beaches. Final approval of that dig will depend on the results of future marine toxin tests, which generally take place about a week before the dig is scheduled. That dig, if permitted, will encompass the April 29 and 30 Long Beach Razor Clam Festival.


Record clam numbers


Last summer before elevated marine toxin levels resulted in indefinite postponement of clam season on Washington’s south coast, WDFW reported “the largest population of harvestable clams on Long Beach for at least the last 25 years.”

Enough adult clams survived and so many juveniles matured after the last digs in the spring of 2015 that there were 4.9 million clams ready for digging last fall between the mouth of the Columbia River and Leadbetter Point. Diggers will now finally have a chance to see if the local clam population is still that robust.

For more information about future razor clam digs see WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/current.html


Watch for birds


During all upcoming digs, state wildlife managers urge clam diggers to avoid disturbing snowy plovers and streaked horned larks. Both species nest in the soft, dry sand on the southern section of Twin Harbors beach and at Leadbetter Point on the Long Beach Peninsula. The snowy plover is a small bird with gray wings and a white breast. The lark is a small bird with a pale yellow breast and brown back. Male larks have a black mask, breast band and “horns.”

To protect these birds, the department asks that clam diggers avoid the dunes and areas of the beach with soft, dry sand. When driving to a clam-digging area, diggers should enter the beach only at designated access points and stay on the hard-packed sand near or below the high tide line.

More details on how to avoid disturbing nesting birds can be found on the WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/



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