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 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
September 13, 2019
Contacts: Dan Ayres, 360-249-4628; Jason Wettstein (360) 902-2254
WDFW announces additional tentative razor clam digs through December
OLYMPIA - State shellfish managers have tentatively scheduled additional razor clam digs on ocean beaches for dates in October, November and December.
Final approval of all scheduled openings will depend on whether results of marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) typically announces whether a dig will go forward about a week before the opening, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the department.
"Abundant razor clam populations on all beaches, except Kalaloch, are allowing for more digging opportunity this year," said Ayres. "But, it is important that razor clam diggers be sure to only dig where it is allowed."
The proposed razor clam digs to date, along with low tides and beaches, are listed below:
- September 27, Friday, 5:52 a.m. -0.9 feet; Long Beach only
- September 28, Saturday, 6:36 a.m. -0.8 feet; Long Beach only
- September 29, Sunday, 7:19 am -0.6 feet; Long Beach only
No digging is allowed after noon for the late September digs where low tide occurs in the morning.
- October 26, Saturday, 5:59 pm, 0.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- October 27, Sunday, 6:47 pm, -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- October 28, Monday, 7:33 pm, -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- October 29, Tuesday, 8:18 pm, -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- October 30, Wednesday, 9:03 pm, -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- October 31, Thursday, 9:50 pm, -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- November 1, Friday, 10:38 pm, -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- November 11, Monday, 5:51 pm, 0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- November 12, Tuesday, 6:27 pm, -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- November 13, Wednesday, 7:03 pm, -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- November 14, Thursday, 7:41 pm, -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- November 15, Friday, 8:22 pm, -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- November 16, Saturday, 9:08 pm, -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- November 17, Sunday, 9:59 pm, -0.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- November 24, Sunday, 4:47 pm, -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- November 25, Monday, 5:34 pm, -1.0 feet; Long Beach Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- November 26, Tuesday, 6:18 pm, -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- November 27, Wednesday, 7:02 pm, -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- November 28, Thursday, 7:44 pm, -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- November 29, Friday, 8:29 pm, -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- November 30, Saturday, 9:10 pm, -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- December 10, Tuesday, 5:28 pm, -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- December 11, Wednesday, 6:06 pm, -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- December 12, Thursday, 6:45 pm, -0.9 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- December 13, Friday, 7:26 pm, -1.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- December 14, Saturday, 8:08 pm, -1.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- December 15, Sunday, 8:53 pm, -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- December 16, Monday, 9:41 pm, -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- December 23, Monday, 4:35 pm, -0.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- December 26, Thursday, 6:47 pm, -1.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- December 27, Friday, 7:26 pm, -0.9 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
- December 28, Saturday, 8:05 pm, -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
- December 29, Sunday, 8:43 pm, -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
No digging is allowed before noon during digs in October, November and December where low tide occurs in the afternoon or evening.
Ayres notes that low tides around New Years are not low enough for successful razor clam harvest, so digging will not open then.
In order to ensure conservation of clams for future generations, WDFW sets tentative razor clam seasons that are based on the results from an annual coast-wide razor clam stock assessment and by considering harvest to date. WDFW authorizes each dig independently after getting the results of marine toxin testing.
"Razor clam digs are a major source of livelihood for coastal communities, bringing out hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to enjoy all we have to offer, including terrific nature, food, entertainment and fun on the beach for the whole family," said Andi Day, Executive Director at Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau. "We value and appreciate WDFW's work to manage this terrific resource for our communities."
All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach.
Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license (starting at $9.70) to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW's website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from some 600 license vendors around the state.
Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger's clams must be kept in a separate container.
More information can be found on WDFW's razor clam webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish and wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities. WDFW razor clam digs support outdoor lifestyles and coastal economies.
Razor clam beaches
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
How Razor Clam Seasons are Set
Over time, the management of razor clams and the setting of recreational seasons have become more complicated. Historically, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife - (WDFW), formally the Department of Fisheries, conducted mark/recapture population estimates and then opened all the major management beaches on the coast at the same time. Usually these were very liberal seasons that depended on limits and other restrictions to balance the resource with the number of users. Dramatic increases in the number of clam diggers, a devastating clam disease, the addition of tribal harvesting and increases in marine toxins have lead to the need for a more conservative and scientific approach to management.
In more recent years, the total number of days open for harvest are reduced to a total as few as15 to 35 days for the entire season (October to May). Each beach is now managed as a separate entity with razor clam openers that often vary by beach. Diggers have become more flexible and those who traditionally only harvested razor clams on one particular beach are now more likely to go to which ever beach is open. However, diggers need to continue to be aware of which beach is open which day - before leaving home.
The season setting process starts with a very detailed summer population analysis of each beach. After population sampling is completed, the total number of clams is estimated along with an estimate of the number of clams under 3 inches (pre-recruits) and clams over 3 inches (recruits). Pre-recruits sized clams are not considered part of the population available for harvest. Such small clams do not tend to "show" and are not usually part of the catch.
The population is calculated by multiplying the number of clams per square meter and the estimated number of square meters considered viable clam habitat on each beach. Again, this is further separated into the recruit and pre-recruit categories. For each beach, a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is then calculated providing for a 30.0% harvest of all clams over 3 inches (except Kalaloch where the TAC is calculated at 25.4%). This is further modified on all beaches north of the mouth of Grays Harbor that have tribal co-management. Tribal co- management refers to the policy of sharing not only the harvest, but also the management of the razor clam resource with coastal tribes that have fishing rights in their usual and accustomed area (U&A). There are currently two tribes that we co-manage the razor clam resource with; the Quinault Tribe which has fishing rights at Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch beaches and the Hoh Tribe which also has shellfish rights at Kalaloch. After the population is determined, the TAC is calculated and the formula is divided by 50% to determine the non-tribal share. Where more than one tribe is involved, their 50% share is further divided by the number of tribes involved. A simplified example of how a TAC is calculated is shown below. Let's say the average population density (across all sample transects) is calculated to be 0.42 clams per square meter. The beach has a total of 3,520,000 square meters of viable clam habitat on the 12 miles of beach.
1. 3,520,000 X 0.42 = 1,478,400 total clams
If the population sampling found that 60% of the clams were 3 inches and over in length then;
2. 1,478,400 X 0.60 = 887,040 clams over 3 inches
If it is a beach with no tribal harvest then the TAC is:
3. 887,040 X .30 (preferred harvest rate) = 266,112 clams allowed to be harvested
If it is a beach with tribal harvest than the TAC for non-tribal digging is:
266,112 or (50%) = 133,056 clams can be harvested over the entire season.
We set razor clam openers in such a way to avoid exceeding the TAC. In general, we try to provide openers that provide digging opportunities 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 harvest on any specific day. However, should bad weather create result in fewer clams being harvested – those clams remain a part of the TAC that will be used to set future openers.
Other factors we consider are based on input we receive during public a comment period held before we set the seasons each year. Some folks like digging in the fall and winter (usually night tides), others like spring tides during warmer weather. Some folks want digging days in a row, while other like the every- other day season structure. There are also social-economic concerns like businesses that depend on clam seasons for income and then we have outside factors like marine toxins that may prevent having seasons during certain times of the year. All of this information is compiled and then a recommendation is formulated. We meet with the coastal tribes to get agreement and then present the recommendation to the Director for final approval. Only after the Director has approved the season and adequate Health Department sampling for marine toxins has taken place are we able to announce the season. Unfortunately, all this takes a great deal of time and often results in final season announcements give diggers only a little lead time to make their final plans
Our hope is that through conservative management; clam populations will remain strong, allowing WDFW more flexibility to provide greater harvest opportunities and more economic impact on coastal economies.