Most people cringe at the idea of getting out a shovel and digging - unless they're on a coastal beach and digging for razor clams.
People around here don’t even mind digging for razor clams in the dark – as long as they have a lantern or headlight to spot the little dimples clams leave in the soft sand of a falling tide.
Clammers can switch on the lights and grab their shovels or siphons tonight and Saturday night at Long Beach and Twin Harbors.
Both beaches are open for clam digging from noon to midnight, but the best clamming starts about an hour before low tide.
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Watching hundreds – sometimes thousands – of clam diggers carrying lanterns across a dark beach is a beautiful, haunting sight.
Sometimes there is still a thin, reddish line of sunset over the ocean, and the lanterns bob around like fireflies on a Midwest summer night.
You’ll find some well-equipped diggers in waders and rain gear, but I’ve also seen very hardy – and perhaps a little crazy – diggers out there in shorts and bare feet.
The Pacific Ocean off the Washington coast ranges from 50 to a toasty 54 degrees or so at this time of year, and that is cold water. Bare feet get cold very quickly. I once watched a man’s feet go from bright pink to a corpse-like, bluish-white shade in just a few minutes.
That poor guy could barely hobble back to his truck with his limit of clams.
I like to wear old, neoprene waders and a rain jacket over a fluffy fleece pullover when I hit the beach.
I also keep a sharp eye on the ocean, as a sneaker wave can push a surprise surge of water right into the digging area.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching expert clammers – diggers with decades of experience – and all of them follow the same basic routine:
They start digging an hour or so before low tide.
They dig where the last of the wave wash hisses over the sand.
They tap the damp sand with a shovel or siphon, which prompts a razor clam to make a dimple.
And, finally, they’re quick to sink that siphon or shovel into the sand and nab that clam. Experts can dig their limit in less than 30 minutes, and it’s an awesome sight.
Low tide for Friday night is at 9:07 p.m., so I’d start digging at 7:45 p.m. or so.
Low tide for Saturday night is at 9:59 p.m.
Yeah, you’re going to need a lantern or headlamp – and some warm clothes and a waterproof layer.
Each clammer is limited to the first 15 clams dug, and everyone age 15 or older must have a license.
If you can’t go this weekend, another dig will probably happen from Nov. 14-17, if tests show that the clams are safe to eat.
Low tides for that dig range from 4:34 p.m. to 6:47 p.m., so there will be a great sunset to watch while you’re digging.
Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks are expected to be open for evening digs from Nov. 14-16. Kalaloch – which is part of Olympic National Park – also should be open for the evening of Nov. 16.
Twin Harbors is the only beach that will open on Nov. 17.
For lots of great information on coastal razor clam seasons, techniques and rules, visit wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shellfish/razorclm/razor6.htm.
Just don’t go barefoot out there.
Chester Allen: 360-754-4226