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
Nov. 21, 2023
Contact: Bryce Blumenthal, 360-249-4628, ext. 232
Media contact: Bridget Mire, 564-224-0845
WDFW approves six days of coastal razor clam digs starting Nov. 24
Considers alternative digging schedule for Copalis and Mocrocks beaches in 2024
OLYMPIA – Once you’ve had your fill of turkey, post-Thanksgiving razor clams will be ready to dig beginning Nov. 24, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) coastal shellfish managers confirmed today.
Not all beaches are open for every dig, so diggers are encouraged to make sure their intended destination is open before heading out.
“By luck of the draw, the tide charts have aligned to allow for some nice sunset low tides starting Friday of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend,” said Bryce Blumenthal, a WDFW coastal shellfish biologist
Optimal digging occurs between one and two hours before the listed time of low tide. The following digs during afternoon and evening low tides (noon to midnight only) will proceed as scheduled, after marine toxin results from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) showed razor clams are safe to eat:
Nov. 24, Friday, 4:18 p.m.; 0.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Nov. 25, Saturday, 5:05 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Nov. 26, Sunday, 5:49 p.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Nov. 27, Monday, 6:31 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Nov. 28, Tuesday, 7:12 p.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Nov. 29, Wednesday, 7:52 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Mocrocks
The DOH requires test samples for marine toxins, and domoic acid levels must fall under the guideline level before a beach can open for digging. Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, can be harmful or fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. More information about domoic acid, as well as current levels at ocean beaches, can be found on WDFW’s domoic acid webpage.
Final approval of marine toxin testing usually occurs about a week or less – sometimes two to three days – before the start of each digging series. Below are additional tentative dates:
Dec. 13, Wednesday, 6:55 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Dec. 14, Thursday, 7:39 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Dec. 15, Friday, 8:25 p.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Dec. 16, Saturday, 9:12 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Dec. 17, Sunday, 10:01 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Dec. 26, Tuesday, 6:18 p.m.; -0.9 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Dec. 27, Wednesday, 6:57 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Dec. 28, Thursday, 7:35 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Dec. 29, Friday, 8:11 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
On all open beaches, the daily limit is 15 clams per person. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container, and all diggers must keep the first 15 clams they dig, regardless of size or condition, to prevent waste. It’s not unusual to encounter some small clams, especially in the early part of the season.
All diggers 15 or older must have an applicable fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses can be purchased from WDFW’s licensing website, and from hundreds of license vendors around the state. WDFW recommends buying your license before visiting coastal beach communities.
Proposed digging schedule
WDFW shellfish managers are considering an alternative digging schedule for Copalis and Mocrocks beaches beginning in 2024. The proposed change would open each beach for multiple days rather than alternating openings between areas every other day. For example, during a four-day tide series, Mocrocks would be open Friday and Saturday and Copalis would be open Sunday and Monday. Proposed dates would provide consecutive open dates on each beach in a way that spreads digging opportunity evenly.
The approach to offering consecutive open days may reduce confusion as to which beach is open, create more digging opportunity when only one beach is available for harvest, allow for increased digging success due to beach familiarity, and reduce travel to and from open beaches. Tentative digging dates for January and February will be announced in early December.
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.
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
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.
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.