Razor clam seasons and beaches

Razor clamming at Twin Harbors beach
Razor clamming at Twin Harbors.

The Pacific razor clam is one of the most sought after shellfish in the state of Washington. Better roads and more leisure time have brought increasing numbers of diggers to the ocean beaches. It is not unusual to have as many as a thousand people per mile during a nice spring weekend day.

Recreational digging for razor clams can be enjoyed by children and senior citizens alike. All you need is a clam shovel or specialized tube, a container to put your clams in and, most importantly, your clam license. Be sure to check the regulations and current razor clam season information for the latest clam-digging requirements and other sport fishing regulation updates. During the fall and winter when low tides occur at night, thousands of clam diggers brave the elements to dig by lantern or flash light. Because there is a great deal of interest in digging at all times of the year, seasons are set to allow digging during daylight spring tides when there is better weather and during the fall/winter when diggers have to deal with the elements, but not as many clam diggers.

During certain times of the year, marine toxins, produced by some species of diatoms (algae) are taken in by razor clams and concentrated. When ingested, these toxins can cause illness and in very high concentrations can be fatal to humans. WDFW, in cooperation with the Washington Department of Health (DOH), samples clams on a routine basis to determine up-to-date toxin levels. If high toxin levels are detected, clam seasons are delayed or closed. WDFW and DOH work very hard to provide a safe and fun resource to enjoy.

Current razor clam season information

April 22, 2022
Contact:
Dan Ayres, 360-249-4628 ext. 209

WDFW approves 9 days of razor clam digs beginning April 29; daily limit is 20 clams

OLYMPIA – Shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) confirmed Friday that the final round of razor clam digging can proceed as planned from April 29-May 7 to wrap up a memorable season.

“As we enter the homestretch of the 2021-2022 recreational razor clam season, it’s quite clear that this will go down as one of the best on record,” said Dan Ayres, the WDFW coastal shellfish manager. “Looking to the future, the cooler, productive ocean conditions we are experiencing now may be a good indicator for another great season starting this fall.”

A total of 432,380 diggers from Sept. 17 to April 21 (111 digging days) have taken home more than 7.1-million razor clams. During digs on April 16-21 the average was 19.1 clams per person at Long Beach; 19.3 at Twin Harbors; 19.2 at Copalis; and 18.7 at Mocrocks. Razor clams have been quite large averaging 4.3” at Long Beach; 4.7” at Twin Harbors; 4.8” at Copalis; and 4.5” at Mocrocks.

On all open beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks, and Copalis – the daily limit from April 29 through May 7 is 20 clams instead of the usual 15. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container, and all diggers must keep the first 20 clams they dig, regardless of size or condition. Diggers are reminded that a possession limit of shellfish is one daily limit in fresh form, and all other shellfish must be frozen or processed. Razor clams that are simply cleaned are not considered processed. For more information, please visit https://www.eregulations.com/washington/fishing/.

Digging is allowed during low tide from 12 a.m. through 11:59 a.m. only (except extended to 1 PM on May 7 only):

  • April 29, Friday, 6:31 AM; -0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • April 30, Saturday, 7:10 AM; -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • May 1, Sunday, 7:47 AM; -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • May 2, Monday, 8:22 AM; -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • May 3, Tuesday, 8:57 AM; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • May 4, Wednesday, 9:34 AM; -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • May 5, Thursday, 10:13 AM; -0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • May 6, Friday, 10:57 AM; +0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • May 7, Saturday, 11:48 AM; +0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis (digging hours extended to 1 PM)

Not all beaches are open for every dig, so diggers are encouraged to make sure their intended destination is open before heading out. The most successful digging occurs between one and two hours before the listed time of low tide.

As in past years, WDFW is asking beachgoers to avoid disturbing nesting snowy plovers – an endangered shorebird – by staying out of the dunes and posted areas along the southwest Washington coast. Snowy plover nests are nearly invisible, and it is vital to give these birds the space they need to live and thrive during their nesting period, especially along the southern end on Twin Harbors – known as Midway Beach – and the north end of Long Beach. People should avoid leaving leftover food or trash – which attracts predators – on the beach and picnic areas, keep pets on a leash, stay out of dunes, and avoid areas which are clearly marked with posted signs. When driving on the beach, please respect the 25 MPH speed limit and enter only at designated access points. Be sure to stay on the hard-packed sand near the high tide line to avoid crushing clam beds and snowy plover nests. For details on the snowy plover, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/charadrius-nivosus.

Razor clam diggers must have a new 2022-2023 recreational fishing or shellfishing licenses to participate. All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Details can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses.

For helpful tips on how to clean and cook razor clams, go to the WDFW YouTube link at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTaRaHkFFEw. For additional tips and razor clam recipes, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/basics/digging-razor-clams.

WDFW and tribal co-managers will begin assessments this summer to determine razor clam abundance. WDFW will also have a public comment period around the end of August. To learn more about razor clam abundance, population densities at various beaches, and how seasons are set, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/razor-clams#management.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Razor clam beaches

Digging on closed beaches could result in a fine. Please check map and current razor clam schedule, and observe signs -- particularly while digging on Copalis and Mocrocks beaches -- in order to determine that you are on the right beach digging legally.

Map of razor clam beaches on Washington coast

Razor clams are found primarily on the intertidal coastal beaches (those that are exposed at low tide) from a +3 foot level to a -2 foot tide level. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) divides the harvest areas into five major management zones (see map):

  • Long Beach from the Columbia River north to the mouth of the Willapa Bay (See map)
  • Twin Harbors from Willapa Bay north to the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor (See map)
  • Copalis Beach from the north jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor to the Copalis River (See map)
  • Mocrocks from the Copalis River to the south boundary of the Quinault Indian Reservation and (See map)
  • Kalaloch from the South Beach campground north to ONP Beach Trail 3. Learn more about Kalaloch beach at the National Park Service website.

Other areas where razor clams exist are: a series of sand spits in the mouth of Willapa Bay, the Quinault Indian Reservation and numerous small beaches north of Olympic National Park (ONP) Trail 3 at Kalaloch. The sand spits in Willapa Bay are referred to as the Willapa Spits and are used for commercial harvest.

Be sure to check the latest domoic acid levels at these beaches before heading out. 

Razor Clam Season Setting and Management

Razor Clam Management

See the updated 2021-22 Razor Clam Management Plan for details on the proposed 2021-22 seasons.  Comments on the plan may be sent to: razorclams@dfw.wa.gov

How Razor Clam Seasons are Set

Washington State has actively managed the coastal recreational razor clam fishery since 1929. Over the decades there have been many changes as more and more people continue to move to the state and discover how enjoyable participation in the fishery is. The flow chart below details the many changes fishery managers have made to address increased digging pressure.

Graphic showing a timeline of razor clam management 1929-2019

Today, the season setting process starts with a very detailed summer population assessment of each beach. A good description of how WDFW conducts this work can be found in the WDFW video, "Razor Clams in Washington Stock Assessment." After this population assessment is completed, the data collected is used to make estimates of total number of clams under 3 inches (pre-recruits) and total number of  clams over 3 inches (recruits). These estimates are made for each of five management beaches

For each management beach, a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is then calculated using a harvest rate that is applied to the estimate of recruit sized clams. The harvest rate used ranges between 30% and 40% depending on the overall strength of the population. The stronger the population, the higher the variable harvest rate and the weaker the population the lower the variable harvest rate. (The only exception is on the Kalaloch management beach where the TAC is fixed at 25.4%.)

On the three management beaches north of the mouth of Grays Harbor (Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch) WDFW co-manages the razor clam resource with coastal tribes that have fishing rights in their usual and accustomed area (U&A). These include the Quinault Indian Nation which has fishing rights in the area that includes Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch management beaches and the Hoh Tribe and the Quileute Tribe with fishing rights in the area that includes Kalaloch.

After the population assessment on these co-managed beaches is completed (by biologists and technicians from the state and the tribes working together), the TAC is calculated (in the same manner as we described above) with 50% then provided for the state fishery and 50% provided for tribal fisheries.

After the TAC’s have been finalized, WDFW begins to set state recreational razor clam openers in such a way to avoid exceeding the TAC or the state’s share of the TAC. In general, WDFW tries to provide openers each month (between October and May), while reserving clams for the months ahead. Obviously weather and surf conditions can cause great variations in the number of clams harvested on any specific day. However, should bad weather result in fewer clams being harvested, those clams remain a part of the TAC that will be used to set future openers.

When selecting days for harvest, WDFW always first considers the best low tides that fall around weekends. This is the time when the majority of harvesters can participate. When possible, week days with good low tides are also scheduled.  Along the Washington coast, the best low tides (when digging success is optimized) always occurs during afternoon/evening (PM) hours in the fall and winter (between October and mid-March) and during morning (AM) tides in the spring (after mid-March.)

Only after the WDFW Director has approved the harvest dates and the Washington Department of Health Department analysis for marine toxins (from recent razor clam samples provided by WDFW) show clams are safe to each, then does WDFW announce that the upcoming harvest dates can proceed. That’s why it is important for harvesters to check this website before heading out to harvest razor clams.

In the end, the evidence is clear - a conservative management strategy allows razor clam populations to remain strong, allowing WDFW the flexibility to provide more harvest opportunities and more economic benefit to coastal economies.