Razor Clamming in the Pacific Northwest

Razor Clamming opened for the first time this fall in the Pacific Northwest.  Fish and Game allowed two clam digs to kick off the season. One on Friday and one on Saturday.  So Thom and I donned all of our gear: waders, gloves, warm water proof jackets and a hat) (yes, I have a pair of my own waders), grabbed our clam guns and clam bags and headed out into the early evening.  The weather was overcast, drizzly and a balmy 60 degrees.  Perfect clamming weather. 

Razor Clamming in the Pacific Northwest

Clam digs will open on and off again from now until the end of March or April depending on domoic acid toxins and clam populations.   You definitely do NOT want to eat Razor Clams that have been affected by Domoic Acid”.  So, Washington State tests the beaches regularly and open and closes clam digs depending on the domoic acid levels and the abundance of clams.

“Domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin produced by certain types of algae, can be harmful or even fatal to humans if contaminated shellfish is consumed. Shellfish can accumulate domoic acid without apparent ill effects. Research has shown that razor clams accumulate domoic acid in edible tissue and are slow to expel the toxin. Cooking or freezing affected shellfish does not lessen the toxicity.Domoic acid can be fatal to people if consumed in high doses. There is no antidote for domoic acid, which causes a condition called amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP). Symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal cramps within 24 hours of ingestion. In severe cases, neurological symptoms develop within 48 hours and include headache, dizziness, confusion, loss of short-term memory, motor weakness, seizures, profuse respiratory secretions, cardiac arrhythmia, and coma.” (Source: WA Dept Fish & Wildlife)

Let me say it again, “You definitely do NOT want to eat razor clams that have been affected by domoic acid!!!”

You can only clam during low tide and WA State allows clammers to begin clamming two hours before low tide. Each clammer must have a shellfish license and is limited to 15 clams per day.  Each clammer must harvest their own clams.  So, Thom can’t help me fill my clam bag by digging them up for me.  He can only put his clams in his clam bag.  He can help me “spot” the clams and show me where to dig, but I have to do the digging for the clams in my bag.

How do you spot a clam?  Sometimes it’s really easy, sometimes it’s more challenging.  Clams will provide a “show”  so that you can see where they are.  Yesterday there were only “doughnuts” showing and they were very, very slight and hard to see.

We go to the edge of the surf and look for the show as the tide rushes in and out.  You have to be very careful not to turn your back to the waves so you don’t get hit by a “sneaker wave”.  Before we got our waders, we were definitely “fair weather” clammers but with our waders, it’s much more pleasant to go clamming.  Then you only have to have rain gear if you want to go when it’s raining.  But the waders are a plus no matter when you go, sunny or drizzly.

“How do you dig razor clams with a clam gun?” you ask.  Well, I just happen to have a handy dandy little explanation for you, thanks to the Washington State Dept of Fish & Wildlife.

It’s as easy as that.

Thom got his limit within about an hour, and I got 10 in about that time, so total razor clams harvested (not caught, but harvested, you want to make sure you use the right verbiage) were 25.  I’m lucky in that Thom does all of the cleaning of the razor clams and that usually takes longer than harvesting them.  Here’s a link that shows how to clean them Cleaning Razor Clams. It’s a yucky job and while Thom cleans the clams, I clean up the mess which is pretty yucky too.  But, my oh my are they good eating!!  So it’s worth the yuckiness.

Our harvest of 25 clams is enough for two good meals for us with leftovers or enough for a dinner for 4 people, either clam chowder or clam linguini.  A lot of people like to bread and fry their razor clams, Thom likes them that way but it’s not a taste I’ve acquired yet.  And unlike other shellfish, razor clams cannot be eaten raw but must be cooked.

It looks like they have about 8-10 more harvests planned for November and December of 2017 but nothing yet about early 2018.  So, we’ll have a few more opportunities to “get our clam on”!  Before we head south for the winter.

Stay safe and keep making those memories.