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- Ready, set, dig: It’s razor clam season at Washington beaches!
Ready, set, dig: It’s razor clam season at Washington beaches!
Special thanks to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for helping us co-write this blog!
The Washington coast, renowned for its oceanfront communities, sandy beaches and world-class recreation, has another unique draw: the razor clam.
Razor clam season is on now in Washington.
Tens of thousands of clam diggers will visit ocean beaches this fall in search of these meaty delicacies. Nearly everyone can enjoy razor clam digs, regardless of age or experience level.
Good news for 2021: Many razor clam populations are strong this year, so the daily bag limit has temporarily increased to 20 clams per digger through December – up from the usual 15. Learn more about how razor clam seasons are set.
Here are a few things to know before venturing out on a dig:
- The season typically begins in September/October and runs until April/May.
- This fall, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced 62 tentative digging dates between Sept. 17 and Dec. 31.
- WDFW conducts annual population surveys at certain beaches to determine the length of the season and number of digging days.
- Look for 2022 dates in December!
- Each set of dates is confirmed about a week before the dig.
WDFW tests razor clams for domoic acid, a naturally occurring marine toxin produced by certain types of algae that can be harmful or even fatal to humans.
- WDFW works with the Washington Department of Health to evaluate whether razor clams can be safely consumed during open dates.
- In 2020, much of the coastal razor clam season was limited by high levels of domoic acid, but levels are much lower so far this season.
Where to dig:
Four beaches have opened for razor clam digging this season. Not all beaches are open during every dig. You can find beach maps at WDFW’s website:
- Long Beach from the Columbia River north to the mouth of 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 (just south of the Moclips River).
Kalaloch Beach is closed in 2021 due to conservation concerns.
What to bring:
A few must-haves will help you stay safe, have fun and get a good haul:
- License. All diggers age 15 or older need the appropriate fishing license to harvest razor clams. Buy one on WDFW’s licensing website or at hundreds of license vendors around the state.
- Warm, dry clothes. The Washington coast gets cold and clammy (pun intended) in fall and winter. Don’t leave home – or the car – without gloves, hats and a warm, waterproof jacket. Hip waders allow you to kneel in the sand without getting wet, and a change of clothes can make the drive home more pleasant.
- Headlamps/flashlights/lanterns. Many digs take place in the early morning or late evening. By fall, it’s likely to be dark on your dig. Lights and extra batteries will help you nab those clams.
- Clam shovel/clam gun. Many Western Washington outdoor/sporting goods stores sell narrow-blade shovels designed for digging razor clams. Others swear by clam tubes – a modified metal or plastic tube that suctions out cylinders of sand (and hopefully, a clam). They’re easy to use, and they don’t require digging.
- Something to hold your clams! Clams can grow up to 6 inches long, and you’ll want someplace to put them all. Carry a big bucket, or a clam net that clips to a belt loop. Clam nets allow you to go hands-free.
How to dig razor clams:
Clamming has a very low barrier to entry, but there are still some things you should know before your first dig. WDFW has resources to pave the way! Visit “How to dig for razor clams” for tips on digging, transporting, cleaning and preparing razor clams.
Other key bits:
1. Don’t turn your back to the ocean. Waves can sweep in from a distance and pull a person out to sea, especially if they’re already shoulder-deep in a clam hole.
2. You must keep the first 20 clams you dig. No putting a clam back if it’s too small or has a broken shell!
3. Respect local residents and communities. Follow all state and local guidelines to keep you and others healthy. COVID remains a concern around the state.
4. Respect wildlife and habitat – including seabirds, shorebirds, sea stars, marine mammals and dune grasses. Give them all a wide berth.
5. Restrooms may be far from digging sites. Plan bathroom trips for yourself and the kiddos. No pooping in the ocean!
6. Pack out what you pack in – garbage, supplies, etc...
Finally: Most Washington razor clam beaches are on or near Washington state parks! Since you may be digging in the dark, check out camping, yurts or cabins at Cape Disappointment, Grayland Beach, Twin Harbors, Ocean City and Pacific Beach state parks! That way you can cook and eat your bounty – and get a hot shower - right away!
Excited to get going? Here’s a step-by-step guide to razor clamming in Washington: