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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 30, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Reporters first trip in eons to the coast reveals a bounty of razor clams


This morning I finally made a trip to the coast for razor clams after not setting a foot on a beach in search of the bivalves for many, many years.

This was the first trip on a recent story I did in the paper titled Top Five Spring Fishing Trips. The others include Westport for lingcod and black rockfish, Lake Washington bass, Columbia River spring chinook and Puget Sound halibut and lingcod.

I left Seattle at 6 a.m., and made the two and half hour drive to Ocean City, located just north of Ocean Shores, and met up with longtime head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish biologist Dan Ayres on the vast sandy shoreline on what is officially known as Copalis Beach.

I scanned the beach and saw plenty of diggers as far as the eye could see, and Ayres said it has been a pretty successful morning.


I was excited to finally get a chance at digging up some of these highly delicious clams, which many say are some of the best eating clams in the Pacific Northwest.

I had made just as he low tide hit its lowest point of the morning, and grabbed the rubber boots and headed down toward the surf line with Ayres.

Earlier in the morning at about 6 a.m. Ayres drove the 12 mile length of Copalis Beach, and counted 2,000 diggers.

“We’ll probably see twice as many diggers by tomorrow (Saturday, May 1),” Ayres said as we headed toward our first digging location. “I didn’t encounter anyone who hadn’t gotten their (15 clam) daily limit.”

I had the clam gun (some say this is the cheating way of getting them since it is so easy), while Ayres got out the traditional shovel.

We found our first “shows,” which are dimples in the sand that is an area where a razor clam has withdrawn its neck or started to dig into the sand leaving a doughnut shaped hole or dimple or keyhole.

It took only a few minutes before we had a couple clams apiece in our containers. Each digger is required to keep their catch in separate containers, but are allowed to share a digging device.

We moved on and Ayres showed me a tip that can make clams “show” themselves by stomping hard on the sandy surface with your boots.


Not soon after Ayres pounded the beach with his rubber boots we managed to pull up more razor clams.

“Just like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it,” joked Ayres to me as I got better at locating the clams with each try.

We both gazed out to the shoreline and noticed that surf water washing up on the beach was a muddy brown color. Some people might worry and think the off colored water may be some harmful sign, but that is not the case.

“That is a good sign because it is the diatoms that the clams feed on,” Ayres said.

Diatoms are unicellular algae that are found in the upper portions of the ocean, and are at times very plentiful. Diatoms are an important part of the pelagic food chain especially for razor clams.

We then set our sights back on the sandy shoreline, and it took us less than 30 minutes to get the rest of our daily limit.

As I got back into the car I thought up how many different ways I could prepare these yummy clams for dinner over the weekend.

The state Fish and Wildlife Web site

has many razor clam recipes as well as a treasure trove of information on razor clams.

There is still plenty of time to hit the beaches this weekend.

Digging is open at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. Digging is allowed until noon each day.

Low tides: May 1, -1.0 at 9:15 a.m.; and May 2, -0.7 at 9:58 a.m.

Ayres says they will assess how many razor clams were dug sometime next week, and will see if more digs are possible this month.

(Photos by Mark Yuasa, Seattle Times staff reporter)



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