OLYMPIA — Razor clam diggers can look forward to more than a month of razor clam digging opportunities on the Long Beach Peninsula.
On Friday afternoon, Jan. 29, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife approved the dig, which runs from Feb. 4 through March 10, at Long Beach after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.
All other beaches remain closed to recreational razor clam digging.
The department approved this extended opening due to the abundance of clams available at Long Beach, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.
“We had a late start to the digging season, so we still have plenty of clams to dig at Long Beach,” Ayres said. “We’re thrilled to be able to announce this lengthy opening.”
Last fall, leading up to what would have been the start of the slamming season in a non-toxin year, WDFW estimated there were nearly 12 million adult clams more than 3 inches in length in Long Beach Peninsula sands. Adult clams averaged 3.8 inches in surveys done last summer.
“This is the largest population of razor clams we’ve recorded at Long Beach since beginning annual stock assessments using the pumped area method in 1997,” according to the agency’s pre-season briefing document.
Based on this strong population, the potential recreational harvest was set at nearly 4.8 million clams.
Since levels of the marine toxin domoic acid dropped below 20 parts per million everywhere on the Long Beach Peninsula in early January, there have been just over 28,000 digger trips and just under 400,000 clams harvested, Ayres said. The average catch is right round 14 clams per person, about comparable to the 2014-15 season. Digging has been permitted 15 days so far.
Last year on the Long Beach Peninsula, an estimated 2.42 million razor clams were harvested and there were 163,929 digger trips — the total number of clammers multiplied by the average number of times they participated in the season. The Peninsula was open for clamming on 104 days last season before being prematurely closed due to domoic acid.
The dig at Long Beach is on evening tides. No digging will be allowed before noon any day. Diggers should check tide charts before heading out, since tides of one foot or above aren’t conducive to digging, Ayres said.
“For the best digging conditions, we advise people to plan their trips to the beach when the evening low tides are less than one foot,” Ayres said.
Ayres noted the best digging usually occurs one to two hours prior to low tide
The first week of the upcoming dig at Long Beach is scheduled on the following dates and low tides:
Feb. 4, Thursday, 3:41 p.m.; 0.8 feet, Long Beach,
Feb. 5, Friday, 4:28 p.m.; 0.2 feet, Long Beach
Feb. 6, Saturday, 5:11 p.m.; -0.3 feet, Long Beach
Feb. 7, Sunday, 5:52 p.m.; -0.7 feet, Long Beach
Feb. 8, Monday, 6:32 p.m.; -1.0 feet, Long Beach
Feb. 9, Tuesday, 7:12 p.m.; -0.9 feet, Long Beach
Feb. 10, Wednesday, 7:52 p.m.; -0.7 feet, Long Beach
For tidal information at Long Beach beginning Feb. 11, diggers should check the tide charts listed on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s webpage at tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/map/.
Additionally, a list of tides will be posted on WDFW’s razor clam webpage wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/. Diggers should also check the website for announcements about openings at other Washington beaches.
Although toxin tests at Copalis beach show clams are safe to eat, shellfish managers are limiting digging there to help ensure the beach will have openings throughout the spring.
“Copalis was the first beach to open this season and we’ve already harvested nearly 40 percent of our annual quota,” Ayres said.
Razor clam digging will remain closed on Washington’s other coastal beaches until domoic acid levels drop below the threshold of 20 parts per million set by state public health officials. The natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities.
WDFW is continuing to monitor toxin levels on all Washington beaches and will open other areas as soon as clams are safe to eat. Toxin test results can be found on WDFW’s domoic acid webpage at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/domoic_levels.html.
Diggers should monitor WDFW’s main razor clam webpage for any potential changes to the Long Beach opening.
Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.
All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2015-16 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.