PENINSULA — The first fall clam dig of the season didn’t disappoint.

Crisp weather, calm tides and clear morning conditions culminated in fast and frequent limits from Seaview to Oysterville over the weekend, the first of several digs slated for the Long Beach Peninsula this fall.

The three mornings attracted a big crowd that made an estimated 18,900 clam-digging trips, resulting in a harvest of 281,800 clams. This includes about 19,700 that were dug up but not kept — which the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife counts as wastage and applies against the overall season quota of around 5.2 million.

“Success was high for most everyone,” WDFW Coastal Shellfish Manager Dan Ayres said Tuesday. An average of 14.9 clams were retained per person, meaning virtually all diggers achieved a 15-clam limit. The average size was 3.8 inches.

“The average size was on the small side, as we expected. These clams will continue to grow and that will be noticeable in the months ahead,” Ayres said. “I worked with my crew collecting catch and effort data on Saturday and was impressed with how many people thanked us for the chance to get out and dig and surprisingly there were actually very few complaints about the small size of the clams.”

He said the relatively small size could be a factor in the level of wastage. “We will be keep an eye on that and hope folks will remember to keep the first 15 clams they dig, ‘regardless of size or condition,’” Ayres said, referring to WDFW regulations.

Plentiful clams, ideal conditions

Favorable tide and weather conditions made spotting the clams easier, especially for seasoned veterans like Kelso residents Glenn and Donna Hogg, who have been coming to the Peninsula to clam for years.

“They were really showing well,” said Donna, who, along with her husband, found 15 clams in less than 15 minutes. “It was easy.”

The same observations were echoed by Seattle resident Sofia Wagner, who collected a limit along with her three friends despite clamming in Long Beach for the first time.

“It was really easy,” Wagner said moments after collecting her last clam. Wagner, who usually clams at Copalis Beach in Grays Harbor, found the digging easier on the Peninsula beaches.

“The sand was smooth and there were no rocks, which made for easy shows,” she said. “I’m happy we each got our limit.”

Clam-cleaning clamor

By 8 a.m. Saturday, a line of successful clammers with limits in hand began to form outside Sportsmen’s Cannery in Seaview.

Inside workers were busy cleaning clams in sinks at both ends of the building, including three extra crew hired specifically for what was expected to be a busy clamming weekend.

“It was like spring dig,” said co-owner Tina Ward. Ward said 405 limits were brought in over the weekend — more than 6,000 clams — about double the daily average for a typical fall dig.

Ward attributed the timing of the dig — largely during daylight hours — for the surge. Traditionally fall digs fall on less popular night tides.

The next tentative dig for the Long Beach Peninsula is scheduled begin Oct. 26.

Luke Whittaker is a staff writer for Coast River Business Journal and the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or lwhittaker@crbizjournal.com.

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