Clam Digging Adventures In Washington

One thing unique to Washington and other ocean neighboring states is the abundance of food that doesn’t come processed or from a factory. Washington, in particular, is special in that it receives food from the Pacific Ocean, through the foothills, flatlands and up into the Cascade Mountain Range and other mountains. Washington offers an abundance of food to those seeking to be fed from the land. We have mushrooms, wild berries, hoofed animals, birds, fish, shellfish and everything in between.

Pacific Ocean during a clam dig in Washington state

Razor Clams

One of those very tasty food sources is the Washington Razor Clam. It’s an activity and food source that is open along our Pacific Ocean at different times of the year, and is heavily regulated due to, at times, unhealthy toxins released by algae. But when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announces the dig dates, and it aligns with your schedule, it is a great adventure to do solo, with friends, or with your family — little ones included! One way to stay up to date on the open and close dates and what beaches are accessible to dig for clams, is to constantly check the WDFW website on shellfishing regulations.

Cleaning And Processing Clams

Cleaning and processing the clams for eating, a delicious snack by the way, is not too hard either. Only a few pieces of equipment are needed for the experience. Go to the Unbounded Pursuit channel and see their video on clam digging and their other one about cleaning and preparing razor clams to eat.

Clam digging in Washington state

The Experience

My experience in particular was in regards to the night dig. The low tide would happen later at night. We would drive out to an open beach, usually somewhere different each night, and we would park and start walking the beach line. Then, the people would show up and the water would retreat, as if it were detoured by the mass amount of people and it wanted to get away. As it crept away, the congregation would follow suit and get closer. The more it moved, the more we moved.

As we moved, we watched patiently. We would look down for tiny holes and air coming out. When we would see that with a little indent in the ground, STRIKE! We would slam our tube or shovel in the ground and dig frantically for about a foot or so and pull it out, then, if we were lucky and the clam didn’t move too fast, we would have a razor clam sitting there, waiting to be put in our clam bag to go home with us.

Clam digging in Washington state

It is a rush, and such a good time with friends and family. I remember walking the beaches, headlamps bouncing to and fro and the constant sound of chitter-chatter and laughing. We told jokes, stories, and talked about life, all the while running back and forth, looking for the indent, hole and bubbles in the ground — then BOOM strike again! Dig frantically, pull out, and at times, find a razor clam. Other times it was nothing but wet sand and we moved on to try for another. You quickly forget about being wet, about the weather and you get mesmerized by the dark, open sky, the water coming in and out and the abundance of clams filling our bags. 

clams from Clam digging in Washington state

What Next?

Find open dates and beaches. By going to the WDFW website, a person can find out when and where they can dig for razor clams. Razor clam digging happens throughout the entire year. During the fall and winter months the low tides happen at night. So people have to brave the weather and use lanterns and headlamps to trek way down the beach, following the water as it escapes the beachfront, finding little pockets of air holes to dig frantically and pull up the hunk of a clam. During the spring and warmer part of the year, digs are set up to take advantage of the warmer weather and tides during daylight hours, which leads to more diggers. The fall and winter months bring less diggers and more opportunity, but also colder and nastier weather.

Clam digging in Washington state

One thing that will cause issues with clam digs and seasons is the marine toxins that are produced by some algae. The algae is taken in by the razor clams and concentrated, which in turn can be fatal to humans when ingested if too much is consumed. Therefore, there are delays or closures in the clam digs. The Department of Health constantly checks the toxin levels in the clams to ensure safety for all diggers, young and old. 

Follow The Limit Rules

The limit per day is 15 razor clams per person. Make sure to stay focused and vigilant to know exactly how many you have in your bag. Do not dig more than you are allowed. Digging for razor clams is addicting and it is easy to get swept away in the excitement. It is against the law to take more than you are regulated to take, so frequently check how many you are actually carrying at one time.

Clam digging in Washington state

Five Razor Clam Beaches

There are five zones in which people are able to dig for razor clams. The five zones or beaches are called:

  • Long Beach
  • Twin Harbors
  • Copalis Beach
  • Mocrocks
  • Kalaloch
Clam digging in Washington state

Gear You Need

So what do you need to get started? The nice thing is that you only need three things really: A skinny clam shovel or tube, something to hold your clams in (they can burrow back under the sand), and the most important, your license. You can either buy a yearly shellfish/seaweed license for $15.40 or if you go for a short weekend, you can buy a 1, 2, or 3-day temporary license ranging from $9.35-$17.05 depending on your needs. One thing I am SUPER glad someone told us about is waders. Bring waders (keeps you both dry and warm).

Clam digging in Washington state

Get Out There!

Doesn’t this sound fun? Doesn’t it sound like something you would want to do? For my family and I, it was a blast! We had such a great time and even took a barely walking toddler out with us and he battled the mini-waves and ever changing weather and people galore. 

What this means is that it is accessible and ready for anyone to enjoy, experience and fall in love with. Depending where you live, it can be quite the drive but with the abundance of AirBnb and VRBOs everywhere, you are bound to find a place to vacation, relax and find some clams!

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A.J. Howard

A.J. is married with two children. Living in NE Washington State you will find A.J. and family outdoors exploring new areas all of the time. Pursuing adventure and making memories as a family.

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