After a frustrating spring with no razor clam openers, things are really looking up for clamming aficionados.
On Sept. 14, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced a generous supply of 39 tentative clam digs through December, including a seven-day dig in September that just ended.
If the results from that early dig are any indication, Washington clammers can look forward to a lot of clam chowder this year, and into next spring.
To say there are plenty of clams out there this year is almost an understatement.
“We are in great shape for razor clams, particularly on Long Beach,” said Dan Ayers, the shellfish manager for the WDFW. “Last year, we had a record population, and this year it is almost double that. And, it’s not just on the north end as is often the case on (Long Beach). There are good numbers on the whole length of the beach. If the weather is good you should be able to get a limit just about anywhere.”
“We are offering a lot of days, and we are going to be offering a lot more next year,” he added.
Ayers reported that clammers that took advantage of the September digs did very well, with lots of limits all around. Most diggers were also happy with the size of the clams they found.
September digs are a rarity. Usually managers will wait until October to let the clams beef up a little bit to give the clams time to recover from their summer spawn. This year the clams bounced back really well, so the dig was allowed to go ahead.
“I’ve been here forty years and I don’t remember a time when we opened a dig in September,” Ayers said.
The early digs also offered four days of daytime tides, also a rarity out of the spring digging season.
There is no doubt that the razor clam closures last spring, a result of lockdown rules due to the COVID-19 outbreak, led to many of the larger clams being left. Those big clams are still out there, mixed in with good numbers of smaller clams.
Those smaller clams mean good digs in the years to come, but clammers this year would be wise to try to dig clams with larger shows to let the little ones grow. “Shows” are the dimples in the sand that let clam diggers know there is a clam there. The larger clams are what diggers want, anyway.
Ayers also noted that ocean conditions look good, so the threat of a closure due to marine toxins is minimal. Storms forecast for this week should also bring strong currents that should help break up any areas with the potential for problems.
Final approval of all tentative digs depends on the results of marine toxin tests. If the test results are good, WDFW will announce the openers a few days before the digs are scheduled to begin.
Managers are reminding clam diggers that the COVID-19 virus threat is still out there, and that has coastal communities worried about the disease spreading in their area as a result of large numbers of people gathering on the local beaches.
Ayers was quick to point out that Pacific and Grays Harbor counties deserve a big thank-you for their efforts in cooperating with the department to okay the digs. He also warned that if people do not observe social distancing and fail to follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines, the digs could be in jeopardy.
“Close proximity can accelerate the spread of COVID-19, so we’re asking the public to take steps to thoroughly prepare for their visits to avoid increasing risk,” said Larry Phillips, the WDFW coastal region director in a news release.
Health agencies are requesting that people:
• Stay home if sick,
• Practice social distancing of at least six feet,
• Mask up,
• Bring Personal Protective Equipment like hand sanitizer,
• Leave no Trace: Pack out belongings and garbage,
• Purchase licenses ahead of the trip, to avoid long lines and crowding at local outlets.
• Bring non-cash payment methods to reduce contact, and
• Follow local ordinances and guidelines.
Evening digs in October
The next digs are set for October, and they are evening tides. Diggers need to be especially careful when digging at night. Good quality lighting is important. It is also important not to go out on the beaches alone. Always check the surf predictions and the weather before heading out, and when on the beach keep an eye on the ocean at all times.
All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable fishing license to harvest razor clams, and the limit is 15 clams per day. Clammers must dig their own clams, and they must keep the first 15 clams they dig. Diggers must also keep their clams in a separate container.
Ayers warned clammers that in the early season the beaches are often soft, and it is easy to get stuck when you drive your car onto them.
That is what happened at one approach to the Twin Harbors beach during the September digs. There were multiple vehicles stuck at the entrance, blocking access. Clammers driving on the beaches should keep an eye out for soft sand.
For more info
For more information, including maps of ocean beaches and a complete list of tentative digs, go to the
WDFW clamming website at: https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/razor-clams