Washington's best place to dig razor clams

DAMIAN MULINIX photo

Peninsula people are passionate about razor clams. And with good reason as this is usually the best place in the state to stalk the wily bivalves.

Although occasionally hampered because of a marine micro-organism found in razor clams which can be harmful to humans, 2009 conditions are fine.

Good clamming is usually available on every part of the beach along the entire Peninsula. However, the largest and most plentiful razor clams are usually found from Oysterville approach north to Leadbetter Point. Record numbers of clams have been reported in recent years.

You must keep the first 15 clams you dig, regardless of size or condition. Over-digging, throwing clams back, digging in closed areas, or digging out of season can result in hefty fines.

Visitors are encouraged to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife at 360-586-6129 for information about upcoming seasons and regulations or contact the WDFW online at wdfw.wa.gov and go to the fishing/shellfish link.

CLAMMING 101: What to look for

A "show" or clam hole results from a razor clam pulling in its siphon tube. A show in the damp sand can be as small as a quarter-inch in diameter or as large as a quarter, with bigger holes usually netting larger clams. Doughnuts are a sure sign of a clam and occur when the clam has purged and created a mini-volcano around its hole.

Often one can see a clam "necking" - and no, they are not kissing. When a wave retreats, the siphon tube is at the surface and creates a V effect in the out-going water. The clam may even "spit." This super-purge can eject water as high as a foot or two.

During rough surf conditions or when the weather is windy or rainy, the clam digger may have to stomp to induce a show. Use a resounding march step, and go in a circle so you don't have to back track.

What to wear

Clothing can be anything from sandals and shorts to L.L. Bean's finest apparel stuffed inside chest waders. The key is that it is easier to take clothes off than to drive back to the city for something warmer or drier. It is probably not a good idea to pin your clam license to your neoprene boots or to your hat if it's windy.

When digging in the late afternoon, it is also best to have a lantern so you are prepared if it gets dark. The old-fashioned gas lanterns are best, but even a flashlight is better than nothing.

When to dig

At least two hours before low tide. Tide times are published in the Chinook Observer newspaper.

What to use

To shovel or not to shovel, that is the question, whether it is nobler to use a clam gun or not - you decide. Shakespeare would likely use a gun as he was not an experienced digger. If you use a gun, make sure someone helps you sight it in beforehand to make sure you're digging straight down. When using a shovel, fewer scoops lead to fewer broken shells, but remember why they call them razor clams. The shells are very sharp and can easily cut fingers.

Align your gun directly over the hole or just a tad toward the ocean, as razor clams tend to angle toward the sea as they head down. Use the same strategy when digging.

When you get a clam, it is best to put your catch in a plastic gallon jug with an opening cut large enough to stuff a six-inch beauty in the top. Clam nets allow the sand to drop off the mollusks, but smaller ones can easily slip through, causing wastage and making for a frustrating night for the digger who thinks he has his limit only to find an empty net.

A belt to hold the container in place frees your hands for digging. After getting your limit of the first 15 clams you dig, fill your bucket with salt water. On the trip home your clams will purge much of the sand from their siphon tubes for you.

How to clean your clams

Quickly dipping the freshly dug razor clams in boiling water allows you to easily and safely remove the shells. Snip off the end of the siphon tube (clam necks make an excellent and durable bait for surf perch), and then cut the clam open by following along the zipper, and then through both of the siphon tubes. Finally, cut the boot open and everything that looks dark and yucky is dark and yucky, so remove it along with any grains of sand that remain.

Chill. Oh yes, don't forget to refrigerate your clams. Keep them fresh, as they are now ready to be prepared in your favorite recipes.

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