Once the days start getting shorter and the rain returns, outdoor enthusiasts start celebrating a fantastic time to be a Washingtonian. While common sense would assume that the Pacific Northwest slips into a collective feeling of melancholy once the gray skies return, those who have lived in the region for awhile know better. They know it’s razor clam season.
The fall months bring some of the more unique activities for those living in the upper left corner of the country and nowhere is this more evident than the Washington coast. Out on the wild stretches of beach along the Pacific Ocean where the heavy rains, strong winds and crashing surf usually send the weekend recreationist back inside, thousands of people drive toward the breaking waves in search of this regional delicacy. Clad in rain gear and hip waders, carrying clam guns and shovels, diggers descend to the sandy shores in hopes of quickly obtaining their limit of delicious razor clams.
Razor clam digging is an important part of life in the Pacific Northwest. For millennia, clams were one of the dependable food sources for those living along the coast. As settlers moved west and located along the coast, clamming became less of a survival food and more of a local favorite. Whether they are fried or in your chowder, razor clams are delicious and taste even better when you dig them yourself. This year, instead of wondering if you and your family will enjoy a clam dig out on the coast, why not try it yourself and create a memorable time along the Washington coast?
Aaron Hulst of Gig Harbor has been clam digging the majority of his life. Starting out as a small child, clam digging has created lifelong memories along the crashing waves of the Pacific. Now, he is using clamming as a way to hangout with his daughter and pass down a love for the great outdoors.
“One of my most memorable clamming experiences was this May when my wife and I took our one-month old daughter razor clamming,” Aaron explains. “She obviously did not offer much assistance, but getting the little one outside at such a young age was a beautiful experience.”
While Aaron wouldn’t dream of giving up his favorite clamming spot, he does recommend heading to Roosevelt Beach in Moclips. “You may have to drive a little further, but Roosevelt Beach is very scenic and there are always lots of clams that are easy to spot.”
Along the north coast of Grays Harbor, Kelsey Brazeau is yet another Pacific Northwest resident who loves clamming season. Kelsey is a lifelong digger, too, having had her first clamming experience out in Ocean Shores in 1961. With years of experiences in all types of weather, Kelsey is a wealth of information on clamming and the region. She recommends the entrance off of Ocean Lake Way in Ocean Shores, as it gives easy access to clamming that is consistently good.
This year, there is an extra buzz around the clamming season. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates the total razor clam population on Washington’s ocean beaches has increased slightly over this last year, with a huge season expected south of Grays Harbor. Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, has released a tentative schedule for the remainder of 2016. Many of the earlier fall digs were cancelled due to elevated levels of domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of algae that can be harmful to humans when consumed, but the numbers of clams are up and toxin levels are down making December a great time to dig.
“Long Beach has the largest population of razor clams the department has measured in the last 25 years,” Ayres said. “The population at Twin Harbors also is strong and should provide good digging opportunities this year.”
While that is great news for the south, up north the Mocrocks and Copalis clam numbers are showing small population declines. This news will mean fewer digging days on those beaches this year. That shouldn’t stop you from heading out, though. There is a healthy clam population, and you are strongly encouraged to go out and get your limit. See the proposed schedule here.
After getting your limit during the low tide, both Aaron and Kelsey have recommendations to make the day even more memorable. After digging, Aaron highly recommends stopping by The Green Lantern Tavern in Copalis Beach. Described as a fun restaurant/bar to stop at on the way home, the Green Lantern is a cornerstone establishment along the North Beach. Open from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. (10:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), The Green Lantern is an awesome ending to a fantastic day on the coast.
Kelsey enjoys a slightly different end to her clamming experience. She highly recommends stopping by Ocean Beach Roasters for coffee, lunch, breakfast or even a glass of wine. Another popular place Kelsey enjoys is Bennett’s Fish Shack for a drink and dinner, capped off with a night of lodging at Oyhut Bay Vacation Rentals.
Turn your razor clam digging outing into a full weekend adventure to the coast for a perfect off-season vacation full of salty air, razor clams and the creation of lifelong memories.