Ring in New Year Digging Razor Clams

Best Bet: Sunday at Twin Harbors Where Clam Numbers are Reported to be High

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle

The Pacific Ocean beaches offer plenty of razor clamming areas.

Grab your clam gun, headlamps and lanterns and get ready to ring in the New Year this Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the last and the first razor clam digs of the year.

Thursday afternoon the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife put out the word that the go-ahead has been given and the marine toxin tests showed that the clams on all five coastal razor clam beaches are safe to eat.

Clammers will be able to dig without lights on the late Friday afternoon dig with low tide set for 3:40 p.m., but Saturday and Sunday diggers will need to gear up to hunt in the dark.

The best evening to dig will probably be Sunday at Twin Harbors, where the tide will hit its lowest of the three days and clam numbers are reported to be high.

Plan to arrive at the chosen beach about two hours before the turn of the tide. The lower the tide the more area that will be available for pursuing clams. When swells are low, clams are more likely to be closer to the surface and easier to dig.

Weather reports for the weekend call for relatively mild winter temperatures for the coast and wind speeds low.

How to Dig

Digging in the dark is not for beginning clam diggers — especially if you are more worried about losing your way back to your car than finding a clam. Pick up a veteran digger to take with you.

For these upcoming nighttime digs, gear for lighting your way is essential. Headlamps are handy for aiming into a freshly dug hole to spotlight the clam, lanterns throw off more light for spotting the clam “show.”

A “show” is where a clam has withdrawn its neck or started to dig leaving a hole or dimple in the sand. Always look for the larger-sized hole, this is a good indication that the clam will be larger, but not always.

Clams will also show at the edge of the surf line when you pound the beach with a shovel handle or your foot. They may squirt sand and water out of the hole where they are located. You need to be quick when digging in the surf as razor clams dig quite fast in the soft fluid sand.

Rubber boots or waders are essential gear. Look out for the “sneaker waves” as you scout the water’s edge looking for the tell-tale dimples in the sand.

There are two types of tools used to dig for razor clams — the clam gun and the clam tube. The clam gun is a short-handled shovel with a narrow, angled blade, designed to remove a wedge of sand.

The clam tube is a plastic or aluminum tube, about 3-feet long, that is inserted in the sand over a clam show. After the tube is about halfway sunken into the sand, the clammer places a thumb on the hole in the tube and pulls a core of sand — and hopefully a clam — out onto the beach.

It’s kind of like putting a finger over a straw while drinking a milkshake.

Check each core that you bring up, a clam may be concealed within the clumps. It may take two or three tries to come up with a clam. Pull with your knees bent and your back straight.

If the clam does not come up with the tube, reach into the hole for it.

Remember you are required to keep the first 15 clams regardless of the size or condition of the clam. Each digger’s limit must be kept in a separate container, although diggers may share digging devices.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer based in Cinebar. She can be contacted at kz@tds.net.