Clad in rain gear and hip waders, carrying clam guns and shovels, armies of clam enthusiasts descend to the sandy shores of the Washington coast hoping to quickly obtaining their limit of delicious razor clams. Out on the battered beaches of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of people will be driving toward the breaking waves, searching for the perfect stretch of sand for a few hours spent razor clamming.

grays-harbor-tourism-logoClam digging isn’t just for the hearty and brave souls who enjoy the elements of winter in the Pacific Northwest. It has transformed into a generational transcending activity, filling not just your stomach, but providing you and your family with a lifetime of memories outdoors.

razor clam dig
Bundle up and have some fun on Washington’s beaches this winter digging the local specialty, razor clams.

Common sense tells us that once the rain, wind and gray return to the Pacific Northwest, we should retreat indoors. For many, watching the Seahawks, reading a book or cooking delicious meals takes precedence over going outside in the elements. And, many of us slip into a collective feeling of melancholy once the gray skies return. However, those who have lived in the region for a while know better. They know that when the days grow shorter, the rain returns in full force and the snow piles up in the mountains, there is no better time to get outside and head for the Washington Coast. They know it’s razor clam season and can’t contain their excitement.

Razor clam digging has been a cornerstone of life in the Pacific Northwest for millennia. As settlers moved west and starting living along the coast, clamming became less of a survival food than it had been for the countless generations of Native Americans who had lived here and clammed for longer than we know.

razor clam dig
Locals and tourists alike line the beaches during a razor clam tide where camaraderie outweighs competition in the search for your limit of 15 clams.
Photo Credit: NOAA

Once cars and roads replaced dirt trails, horses and wagons, razor clams transitioned away from being a food for much needed nutrition in the winter to a seasonal local favorite. Fried or in your chowder, razor clams recipes all lead to delicious and tasty meals, perfect for the darker days around the Pacific Northwest. This winter, turn your razor clam digging outing into a full weekend adventure to the coast for a perfect off-season vacation full of salty air, razor clams and the creation of lifelong memories.

Aaron Hulst of Gig Harbor has been clam digging for the majority of his life. Starting out as a small child, clam digging has created lifelong memories along the crashing waves of the Pacific. Now, he is using clamming as a way to hang-out with his daughter and pass down a love for the great outdoors.

“One of my most memorable clamming experiences was last May when my wife and I took our one-month old daughter razor clamming,” Aaron explains. “She obviously did not offer much assistance, but getting the little one outside at such a young age was a beautiful experience.”

razor clam dig
Dig your limit (15 per person) at one of the upcoming winter clam tides along the Washington coast. Photo credit: Aaron Hulst.

While Aaron wouldn’t dream of giving up his favorite clamming spot, where beautiful, large shelled mollusks lurk in the sand, he does recommend heading to Roosevelt Beach in Moclips. “You may have to drive a little further, but Roosevelt Beach is very scenic and there are always lots of clams that are easy to spot.”

This year, there is an extra buzz around the clamming season. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates the total razor clam population on Washington’s ocean beaches has increased slightly over this last year, with a huge season expected south of Grays Harbor. Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, has released a tentative schedule for the remainder of 2016. Many of the earlier fall digs were cancelled due to elevated levels of domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of algae that can be harmful to humans when consumed, but the numbers of clams are up and toxin levels are down making December a great time to dig.

“Long Beach has the largest population of razor clams the department has measured in the last 25 years,” Ayres said. “The population at Twin Harbors also is strong and should provide good digging opportunities this year.”

While that is great news for the south, up north the Mocrocks and Copalis clam numbers are showing small population declines. This news will mean fewer digging days on those beaches this year. That shouldn’t stop you from heading out, though. There is a healthy clam population, and you are strongly encouraged to go out and get your limit. See the proposed schedule here.

razor clam dig
Prepare in advance, or relax after your razor clam dig at the local watering hole, The Green Lantern.

After getting your limit during the low tide, locals and clam enthusiasts have a few recommendations to make the day even more memorable. After digging, Aaron Hulst highly recommends stopping by The Green Lantern Tavern in Copalis Beach. Described as a fun restaurant/bar to stop at on the way home, the Green Lantern is a cornerstone establishment along the North Beach. Open from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. (10:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), The Green Lantern is an awesome ending to a fantastic day on the coast.

Others enjoy a slightly different end to their clamming experiences. A quick stop to Ocean Beach Roasters for coffee, lunch, breakfast or even a glass of wine will warm you up and help you bask in the glory of a successful dig. If you’d like to make a weekend out of the clamming adventure, enjoy Bennett’s Fish Shack for a drink and dinner before spending the night at the always gorgeous lodging at Oyhut Bay Vacation Rentals.


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