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Razor Clamming in Washington State

We went razor clamming in the spring of 2004 with Mei and Brian and their kids.  It was our first time clamming, so we bought clam tubes, licenses, and beer and headed up to Ocean Shores, Washington, where the hordes were out for the last day of clamming season.  The clam tubes were very easy to use, and I got my 15-clam limit within the first twenty minutes.  We then spent the rest of two hours trying to find Sandra her 15.  It was a good time doing the digging, but we found out that it took hours to clean all the clams we got!  We didn't care for the taste of the razor clams that much, so it definitely wasn't worth the work!  After clamming, we met Craig, Denise, Dan, Mary, Ken, and Jeannette in Naselle and feasted on Salmon and Clams.  It was a good trip, and a unique experience.  At the bottom of the page you'll see our photos.

The Pacific razor clam (Siliqua patula) is an exceptionally meaty shellfish which ranges from California to Alaska. It is abundant on surf-pounded ocean beaches, but also occurs in sheltered areas along the coast. Limited diving observations have indicated some adult razor clams (S.patula) offshore for up to one-half mile. Razor clams dredged in water deeper than 30 feet, although similar to the beach clam, are a different species (Siliqua sloati).

In Washington waters, the razor clam grows to a maximum length of six inches, although they are seldom found. Clams seven inches long have been recorded, but are very rare. The life expectancy for Washington clams is five years. Again, there are exceptions, but razor clams suffer from a high degree of mortality due to predation by Dungeness crabs, shore birds, numerous species of fish and of course thousands of clam diggers. A disease was also discovered in the early 1980's that caused mass mortalities of large numbers of clams. It is unknown how long this disease has affected clam populations. In contrast, razor clams found in Alaska may grow to eleven inches in length and live to be 15 years old, due to colder water temperatures and slower growth rates.

Razor clams are found primarily on the intertidal coastal beaches (those that are exposed at low tide) from a +3 foot level to a -2 foot tide level. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) divides the harvest areas into five major management zones (see map):

  • Long Beach from the Columbia River north to the mouth of the Willapa Bay
  • Twin Harbors from Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor
  • Copalis Beach from the north jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor to the Copalis River
  • Mocrocks from the Copalis River to the south boundary of the Quinault Indian Reservation and
  • Kalaloch from the South Beach campground north to ONP Beach Trail 3.

Other areas where razor clams exist are: a series of sand spits in the mouth of Willapa Bay, the Quinault Indian Reservation and numerous small beaches north of Olympic National Park (ONP) Trail 3 at Kalaloch. The sand spits in Willapa Bay are referred to as the Willapa Spits and are used for commercial harvest.

The first fifteen razor clams regardless of size or condition must be retained. One daily limit of fresh shellfish may be in possession. Additional shellfish may be possessed in a frozen or processed form. Razor clams may not be returned to the beach. For razor clams, holes do not have to be refilled as is required for hardshell clam digging.  Razor clams may be taken by hand, hand-operated shovel, or tube with a minimum outside diameter of 4" or (4" x 3" if elliptical). Each digger must use a separate container, but may share digging equipment.  Razor clams are strictly managed by determining clam population levels and harvest plans are set every year. Contact the WDFW Coastal Washington regional office for details on upcoming seasons.

- http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/razorclm/razorclm.htm

Clamming Links


Brian Digs with a Shovel Mei Demonstrates This is the technique!
"Ooh!  It's getting away!" Sandra Gets Lessons "My Back Went Out!"
Showing Off the Catch Another Try The Harvest
All Told, 105 Clams! Not Sure About Sandra... Relaxing After the Catch


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