LONG BEACH — The 2019-20 razor clam season doesn't start until October, but the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is already busy making stock assessments, a major step in deciding how many clams can be harvested.
"In general, the Long Beach population is strong," WDFW Coastal Shellfish Manager Dan Ayres said, "although most clams are on the small side, with the recruit-sized clams (those over 3 inches) averaging 3.6 inches with only 25% of the clams measuring over 4 inches."
This finding suggests that Long Beach Peninsula clams have been growing slowly. Leading up to the 2018-19 season, the WDFW census found fewer than 2.1 million of the adult clams that biologists refer to as recruits — a drop of 32 percent from the poor total a year before. Because 81 percent of Peninsula clams were under 3 inches during the 2018-19 preseason survey, only four digging days were allowed, with a total harvest estimated at 614,500.
However, a year ago nearly 10 million small clams were estimated to be making their way to being three inches or more in length. It was expected many of these would be 4 to 4.5 inches by this fall in time for the start of the 2019-20 season.
In south Pacific County, biologists plan one more transect of the beach on Aug. 30, during which they will count how many clams of all sizes are in representative sample areas up and down Long Beach. This and earlier samples will determine the total allowable catch of clams during the season that starts this October and runs through April or May 2020.
Based on what he's seen so far, Ayres said on Aug. 6 that "I expect the final numbers will be very good news."
WDFW's sampling crew finished up the razor clam assessment at Twin Harbors on Aug. 3. Twin Harbors, from the mouth of Willapa Bay in north Pacific County to about Westport, had a highly productive 2018-19 season. Twin Harbors' total number of harvestable clams during the 2018-19 season was 1.37 million clams, of which diggers harvested 1.2 million.
Ayres said that based on last week's assessment, "The number of harvestable clams for the 2019-20 season at Twin Harbors is 1.84 million clams."