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Tag Archives: razor clams

Some stuff from the beach. The blue jellyfish-like creatures are Velella velella, also know as by-the-wind sailors. Sometimes they get caught up in off-shore winds and end up on the beaches, dying and leaving a slippery and if it’s warm enough, stinky mess. Fortunately for us, it was not warm when we were there. You can read about them here. The first time I saw them, there were one or two here and there and by the time I left the beach, vast swaths of sand were covered with them.


Digging razor clams is not like digging steamer clams. Some folks use a long narrow shovel and they may consider themselves purists but we have found that clam ‘guns’ work just fine for us. These guns are tubes, often made of plastic pipe but also made of aluminum or steel, with handles on the top. A clammer finds a clam ‘show’ – a dimple in the wet sand – and then carefully lines the gun up with that dimple and going at an angle with the handle a bit back towards shore, the clammer shoves the tube as far into the sand as she can. Then she puts her thumb or finger over a small hole on the handle and pulls the tube, now full of heavy, wet sand, out and with any luck, the clam will be in that sand. She may have to do this twice or just reach down into the wet sand and grab the clam before it digs away from her. These clam digs are timed with low tides and often are at night. We were lucky that our tides were in the early evening and the days are lengthening so we did not need lanterns and head lamps! There is a limit of fifteen clams per person per day. We got our limits each day. After digging, you have to clean the clams and that’s really the hard part. People get to drive on the beach to their favorite spot. We were lucky to be staying right on the beach so just walked out the door to our favorite spot!

A lucky thing happened last month. There was a razor clam season during our vacation! Razor clams on the Washington Coast are carefully managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. If you want to know how they manage the seasons – read this. As far as I know razor clams are limited to the Pacific Northwest up through Alaska. They are considered a delicacy – a delicious clam for frying, baking at high heat and chowder. Unlike a traditional clam, they are rectangular – long and kind of flat looking. They are also strong diggers so when you are digging for razor clams you are also chasing them as they dig down into the watery sand. It’s quite fun! The seasons are limited to the lowest tides of the month and often times those tides are at night. The only other time we got to dig for them was in December a few years ago, after dark and the temperature hovered near freezing. It was quite the adventure but we were able to get our limits (fifteen per person per day) and our taste for them was whetted.

Razor clam digging seems to be tradition passed down from generation to generation. We noted many families with grandparents, parents and kids all digging and having fun. Dogs too!


The view from our room as the dig got started before the tide was all the way out



Heading to their spot on the beach



It can be a dirty job and proper clothing is important. Some people like this fellow, use shovels.



Even with hundreds of people on the beach, it doesn’t seem crowded and there were lots of clams for everyone



Dogs like it



This dog looks like he wants to help



This young man was clamming for the first time



He was happy to show me his biggest clam




Some people work alone




A couple of clam guns. To use this device, you look for a clam show – a small dimple in the wet sand – and then carefully angling towards the ocean you center the cylinder around the ‘show’ and then push it into the sand. There is a tiny hole that you cover with your finger as you pull the gun, now loaded with wet heavy sand, out and with any luck, the clam will be in that sand. Or not. You may have to repeat. Or you may have to reach down in the hole and grab the clam as it tries to dig away from you.




Classic digging style




The tide will come in and all traces of the digging will disappear.




They are using the team approach




This dog was wet and dirty




Family fun




Another group heads out




Now that we have our limit, what do we do?




Cleaning clams is the hard part




The clam and fish cleaning shack



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