(Eastern) softshell clam (Mya arenaria)

Category: Molluscs
Common names: softshell clam

Clams can be dug by hand or hand-operated fork, pick, rake, or shovel. Each digger must use a separate container to retain catch. Digging equipment may be shared. Clam holes must be refilled. To reduce clam mortality, please push any undersized clams into the refilled hole. Caution: Always check the local biotoxin status before harvesting via the biotoxin hotline (1-800-562-5632) or www.doh.wa.gov/shellfishsafety.

Description and Range

Physical description

Eastern softshell clams have an elongated shell that is thin, brittle, and uneven on the outer surface.  They grow to 6 inches long and are white or grey colored with dark siphon tips.  Eastern softshell clams have a periostracum, which is a thin fibrous layer, around the edge of the shells.

Eastern softshell clams are buried 8 to 14 inches deep in sand and mud substrate, often in estuaries.

Geographic range

Eastern softshell clams can be found from Icy Cape, AK south to Elkhorn Slough, CA.


Licenses and permits

Anyone digging for clams in Washington must have a valid license that includes shellfish harvest. See the Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet for more information, or visit a license dealer.

Rules and seasons

No minimum size. Daily combined limit of all clam species (excluding HORSE CLAMS and GEODUCKS) no more than 40 clams, not to exceed 10 pounds in the shell.
Recreational clam seasons are beach-specific and may change annually. Check this year’s seasons here: Public clam, mussel, and oyster beaches. Always check the DOH biotoxin status before harvesting.