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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

October 29, 2010 at 4:42 PM

Coastal razor clam digs approved for next week

The coastal razor clam digs have been approved and will begin Nov. 5 on five beaches.

Twin Harbors will be open Nov. 5-8, and Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch and Long Beach will be open Nov. 5-6. Digging will be allowed from noon to midnight only.

“The first dig of the season (Oct. 7-10) generated fewer digger trips than anticipated, and it was a function of the bad weather,” said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish biologist. “Digging on the first two nights was great with mostly limits (15 clams per person daily) for everybody.”

The Oct. 7-10 dates resulted in 21,500 digger trips with 244,000 razor clams, for an average of 11.3 clams per person.

“There was a lot of small clams (in the 3-inch range) around, although people were getting two or three larger clams too,” Ayres said.

Diggers heading to Copalis and Mocrocks should be aware of a traffic revision on eastbound U.S. Highway 101 in Hoquiam due to emergency work on the Simpson Avenue Bridge.

“This is the only route to those beaches, so people should allow extra travel time to make sure they arrive on time,” Ayres said.

Low tides: Nov. 5, minus-1.4 feet at 6:41 p.m.; Nov. 6, -1.6 at 7:26 p.m.; Nov. 7, -1.5 at 7:11 p.m.; and Nov. 8, -1.2 at 7:55 p.m.

Other dates: Dec. 4-5 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; Dec. 3, Dec. 6 and Jan. 2 at Twin Harbors only; and Nov. 20-21 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors.

Here are some facts and tips before heading out to your favorite coastal beach.

The overall stock assessment in 2010 on all beaches shows a decrease in the total allowable catch (TAC), but the good news is there has been a very nice rebound in the number of pre-recruits this year, which should lead to more clams in the future.

A larger degree of the clams dug this fall will be in the 3-inch range, but diggers should note clams grow quickly and will be much larger by spring.

At Long Beach, the TAC is 1.28 million clams, and is close to last year’s actual harvest of 1.42 million, so the 2010-11 season should be very similar to last year. Typically the better digging at Long Beach is on the north end, but the area south of Seaview does show a presence of recruit clams.

Twin Harbors remains the most consistent beach the last few years so digging should be similar to last year’s decent prospects. Good densities of clams were found in all sections.

The average size of the Long Beach and Twin Harbors clams found in summer surveys was 3.9 inches. It was 4.2 in 2009 and 3.8 in 2008.

The state’s share of the TAC at Copalis is 35 percent of what it was for last season due to poor recruitment of small clams. But, the good news is that almost 10 times more pre-recruits are present this year. Nevertheless, diggers at Copalis will find fewer digging days in the 2010-11 season.

The southern boundary for stock assessment at Copalis is 0.2 miles south of Tarus Beach, and beyond that populations are sparse or nonexistent. In the southern extreme, clams are fairly evenly distributed.

The average size of clams at Copalis this summer was 4.1 inches. It was 4.7 in 2009 and 4.2 in 2008.

The increase of juvenile razor clams at Mocrocks as a result of more than one successful spawning event over the last year is quite spectacular. While there is a boom in clams, diggers will likely find the clams on the small size.

The average size of clams at Mocrocks this summer was 3.7 inches. It was 4.7 in 2009 and 4.2 in 2008. Clam density is fairly consistent on all of Mocrocks with the higher mass south of Copalis Rocks and south of Joe Creek (south of Pacific Beach).

While down from last year, the number of recruit clams at Kalaloch remains strong compared to the five-year average. Digging should be similar to last year.

The average size of clams at Kalaloch this summer was 4.0 inches, the same as 2009. It was 3.2 in 2008. The denser population of clams is around the main Kalaloch Campground and north of there.

Ayres reflecting back on the 2009-10 razor clam season says it was successful on many levels even with some challenging circumstances at times.

During the 2009-10 season, 283,000 clam digger trips generated more than 3.8 million razor clams dug on the five coastal beaches for an average of 13.4 clams per person (the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is the daily limit).

At Long Beach digging was open 37 days (22 days in 2008-09 season) with a digger effort of 105,817 who claimed more than 1,422,202 clams for an average of 13.2 clams per person.

At Twin Harbors digging was open 46 days (27 days in 2008-09 season) with a digger effort of 60,165 who took home 840,119 clams for an average of 14.0 clams per person.

At Copalis digging was open 24 days (24 days in 2008-09 season and 13 in 2007-08) with a digger effort of 78,822 who dug up 1,00,413 clams for an average of 13.2 clams per person.

At Mocrocks digging was open 23 days (25 days in 2008-09 season and 11 in 2007-08) with a digger effort of 37,092 who had 496,303 clams for an average of 13.4 clams per person.

At Kalaloch digging was open 17 days (closed in 2009-08 and 07-08 seasons) with an digger effort of 4,548 who got 46,373 clams for an average of 10.2 clams per person.

Highlights include openings on each of the five beaches during every month between October and May.

Digging reopened at Kalaloch after being closed for two seasons due to low abundance and small clams.

Low tides allowed digging on the New year’s Holiday.

The economic impact of the clam digs are also significant during the usually quiet times of fall, winter and early spring, which can bring as much as $22-million to the coastal towns.

Lowlights include storm warnings and high surf advisories warning people to stay away from beaches during the November openers. Swell conditions exceeded 30 feet and winds of more than 70 mph slammed the coastline.

An unexpected rise in PSP levels closed Long Beach opener in January.

A West Coast tsunami advisory Feb. 27 had many clam diggers staying away from beaches.

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