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Really Juicy Secrets of Clamming on the Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) - So the bug to go clamming has bitten you. And for good reason. The Oregon coast is a hotbed of clam beds in many places.
There's plenty of information out there to help you out, especially if you talk to some of the really in-the-know locals. But first, you may want to delve into the basics. Initially, you'd want to head to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Web site.
Where can you go clamming on the coast? The State says: “All areas are open except Marine Gardens, Research Reserves, Habitat Refuges, and Shellfish Preserves. These areas have signs indicating their locations and are listed and mapped in the Sport Fishing Regulations book.”
It is important to check the state’s website before you go, to make sure a ban isn’t in place because of toxic clams. This happens periodically. In fact, clamming was banned for a few years on the north coast because of toxins in the clams.
Clams are plentiful in some areas, and not so plentiful in others.
The ODFW's website says: "Razor clams (Silqua patula) are found throughout Oregon’s ocean beaches. Clatsop beaches (Columbia River to Seaside) have the most stable populations because of beach stability. 95 percent of Oregon's razor clam digging occurs here. Other areas such as, Agate Beach, Waldport Beach, Whiskey Run, Myers Creek, and other beaches along the coast also have razor clam populations, but tend to be less available."
However, the tricky part here is that it will soon be illegal to go clamming on the north coast for a while. From Seaside north to Warrenton, it’s banned from July 15 until September 30. Aside from those restrictions – or any toxicity problems that may arise – you can go clamming 24 hours a day.
You need a license to go clamming on the coast.
For razor clams, the limit is 15. They can be taken by hand or hand-powered tools.
“Razor clams may be taken by hand, shovel, or cylindrical gun or tube,” says the OPRD’s website. “The opening of the gun/tube must be either circular or elliptical with the circular gun/tube opening having a minimum outside diameter of 4 inches and the elliptical gun/tube opening having a minimum outside diameter dimension of 4 inches long and 3 inches wide.”
It is unlawful to remove clams from the shell before leaving the harvest area.
For bay clams, like gaper, butter, cockle or littleneck, the legal limit is 20 clams – a limit of 12 for gapers.
The taking of oysters is not allowed.
Rules do change periodically, so keep your eye on the state’s website for that as well.
Regulation books are available free of charge where angling and hunting licenses are sold. For more information contact the Marine Resource Program (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/). 2040 SE Marine Science Dr, Newport, Oregon; or (541) 867-4741.
On the north coast, razor clamming is especially hot – from Tillamook Bay northward. Areas like Rockaway, Manzanita, Cannon Beach and Seaside are excellent for obtaining the delicious little critters. All you need is the right tools and a license, purchased from any sporting goods stores. But north of Seaside, it’s even better.
Part of the reason here is the large amount of nutrients that feed clams, coming from the currents of the north coast, and run off from the Columbia and Necanicum rivers.
This confluence of nutrients also results in the most plentiful beds of sand dollars near the mouth of the Necanicum – at the very northern end of Seaside or the very southern end of Gearhart. Consequently, it’s on these beaches where you’ll find the most impressive array of whole sand dollars on the entire Oregon coast.
Local beach expert Guy DiTorrice has some interesting secrets of the trade to impart for the central coast. Firstly, the bays are the hotbeds for clamming.
“Thick sandy shorelines have something to do with great razor clamming,” said DiTorrice. “They like to move around, so they need real sandy locations. Our cobble-strewn beaches at most locations here do not bode well for razor clamming as much as they do for cockles and steamers.”
He says there are excellent clam beds on the Yaquina River, in Newport, next to the dock for OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center (which can be found where Marine Science Drive dead-ends).
"Make sure you get there at minus tides," DiTorrice says. "Use your waders - it's muddy. Bring a rake and bucket. Nice cockles and horsenecks, with an occasional razor. And the current at this turn in the river keeps your shellfish clean."
DiTorrice stresses to check your limits because game enforcement is common in the area.
As for crabbing, DiTorrice stresses to not crab off the jetties in Newport. "The rocks you are standing on are the visible part of a much larger rock mass. Your brand new crab ring is more likely to get tangled in the rocks below."
That's no problem for DiTorrice, he says. He's an accomplished diver who sometimes heads down below to pick up lost crab rings and then resells them.
"Stick to the public docks in all coastal cities - and watch your tides," DiTorrice adds. He also provides some other interesting tidbits of advice: "The smellier the bait the better. And think about a charter boat or small boat rental for Yaquina Bay."
The really interesting secret about clamming is that you may want to wait until for the best catch. Get in on the fact there's hardly anyone else doing it at that time of year and snag a bigger, better catch. For clamming, minus tides and lesser sands (because of storms) make that a little easier. Crabbing has an extra nice touch in winter because shells are harder, making for more compacted and better meat in your catch.
But for a real clamming secret, talk to Bill Hanshumaker, marine education specialist at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Here's what he says about one particular morsel: "Hunt down an invasive specie and eat it! Soft shell clams (Mya arenaria) were transplanted to the West Coast in the late 1800's and are usually abundant in the upper estuaries. Even when razor clamming is closed on the beach (due to harmful alga blooms), it is usually safe to dig soft shells. And it doesn't require a licensing fee!"
This breed of soft-shelled clam is six inches long, and according to one source it is described as: "The thin fragile valves are white with the brown periostracum along the hinge region. There is a large, spoon-shaped internal projection, the chondrophore, on the left valve at the hinge. The siphons are light tan interspersed with dark brown. It is found 12 inches (20 cm) below the surface."
It's usually found in mixtures of sand and mud, or mud and gravel, where salinity is lesser because of fresh water entering into the area.
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