Fish & Feathers: How do razor clams reproduce?

<I>Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife</I>

Being that we are in the spirit of razor clam season, a lot of diggers are asking questions about clams. Being too lazy to look them up on the Internet, they generally ask me.

One of the questions I was asked last week was "How do razor clams reproduce?" I was pretty sure that I knew the answer, but rather than guess at it, I went to my favorite search tool ... the Internet. I used all the search engines plus the WDFW website and came up with a lot of information, but not the right answer.

So I went to the source that I should have with started in the first place, Dan Ayres, head clam biologist for the state of Washington.

The answer from Dan was as follows:

"Razor clams are either male or female. The sperm or eggs are produced in the gonads, which are part of the 'digger,' or foot of the clam. The females release their eggs (6 to 110 million plus at a time) and nearby males release their sperm. (We don't know exactly what triggers their release.) The lucky eggs that meet up with a sperm become fertilized eggs. These develop in the larvae that are free floating for a six- to eight-week period. At this point a shell begins to develop and the newly formed clam settles into the sand. At this small size they are moved up and down the beach at the whim of the surf. However, as they grow and can hold themselves in the sand, that's where they dig in and remain for the rest of their lives.

"The majority of razor clams spawn in late May or early June. However, there are smaller segments of the population that are in spawning condition at most any time of the year. We also see signs of successful setting, indicating clams spawned outside the typical late spring period.

"A 5-year-old razor clam will grow to six inches in length and rarely seven inches on the Washington coast. In contrast, razor clams found in Alaska may grow to 11 inches in length and live to be 15 years old, due to colder water temperatures and slower growth rates."

The razor clam in Washington is one of the most sought after of the clam species and a great adventure for the family to spend outdoor time together. Upcoming Long Beach digs include: Nov. 20 and Nov. 21, Dec. 4 and Dec. 5, and Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. Remember, you keep the first 15 clams you dig.

Ron Malast can be reached at 665-3573 or raiders7777@centurylink.net

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