If you’re like me and you’ve had just about enough of this lackluster Spring Chinook season, you may want to take a look at some other options. Instead of lamenting your empty freezer or staying home, consider heading to the beach for some clam digging.
Razor clams are hands down the best tasting bivalve on the coast. Their tender, flavorful body will make anyone salivate merely at the thought of biting into a breaded and fried specimen. Coming off of 2015 in which Razor Clamming was closed coast wide in both Oregon and Washington due to Domoic acid for much of the spring and summer. As a result, many of those Razors never got harvested and are ripe to be plucked from the surf.
Doing so can be tricky at times however. Depending on where you are searching for them, they’re “show” will take different forms. In the higher parts of the beach they will be a small hole in the sand, or a dimple. Down at the surf line the clams will be closer to the surface and will often make their necks visible as the filter water in and out of their bodies. These are generally the easiest to dig as they are so close to the surface but beware of the surf and the risk of losing your catch to a receding wave.
Most Razor Clam harvesters most often use an implement known as a “Clam Gun” to catch their quarry. These have a long metal or PVC cylinder with a sealed handle and a hole in it for the user to create suction with. These devices have seen some innovations in the last couple of years involving high quality Stainless Steel or aluminum components and different diameters to accommodate the full range of clam enthusiasts.
Some clam gun manufacture’s such as “Clam-Vac” have begun vertically attaching a small tube to the side of the cylinder. This helps to relieve the pressure as the gun is pushed into, and pulled out of the sand. Though I’ve never tried them, it seems like this would make the task of gathering Razor’s more attainable for the young, old, or for anybody who struggles with it.
Other tools to take along with you include a net to put your catch in. Danielson makes one that easily clips to your belt loop allowing your hands to be free for digging. At minimum you’ll want knee boots, but I like to use my breathable chest-waders. I also take along a plastic or metal broom handle with the head unscrewed to use a tamping stick. Using a 3’ piece of 40# mono, tie a slipknot through the top of the broom handle and tie the other end to large duo-lock snap then clip it to your belt loop. That way you can drop the tamping stick and dig without losing it in the surf.
As far as locations are concerned the Oregon side of the Columbia River has excellent digging from Ft. Stevens State Park, south all the way to Seaside. Many of the beaches from Gearhart north have drive-on beach access that even most 2 wheel drive vehicles can handle. Of course always exercise caution when driving off road however. Washington also has great clamming to offer. The Long Beach Peninsula is loaded with tasty Razors but the seasons tend to be more short lived and tightly monitored though so always check with WDFW before going.
Tides are easily the most important factor when determining whether or not to dig. Any “minus” tide will do, but the lower the better. Make sure to arrive at least 2 hours before low slack. This will not only allow plenty of time to dig, but often the beaches get crowded and can be picked over by the time low tide is near. The other factor to consider before going is the height of the surf. Often when things get too rough out there (8’-10’ or more) the clams don’t seem to show as well. Check USCG bar reports to get an idea before you go.
As luck would have it, we happen to have some killer tides coming this weekend so take Mom down with you or surprise her with fried Razors for Mothers Day dinner! Good luck out there, and be safe.