By John Schaefer, 1997
The moon snail is a large gastropod typically found partially buried in sand and mud beaches. It can attain a size over 5 inches in shell diameter and can extend a fleshy foot to over 12 inches in diameter. As large as this foot may seem, it can completely fit inside the shell after expelling considerable amounts of water
Attached to the foot is a thin horn-like oval object called the operculum. The operculum closed off the opening to the shell like a trap door when the shell pulls it's body inside.
The moon snail is a predator mainly on clams, which it reaches by digging with it's large foot. Clam shells found with a perfectly round hole drilled in them were probably eaten by moon snails.
Low tides in the spring and summer are the best time to look for moon snails. At this time, they come into shallow water lay their eggs. Moon snail egg cases, commonly called sand collars, appear to be thin pieces of rubber in the shape of a round collar. They are composed of snail eggs sandwiched between layers of mucus coated with sand.
For shell collectors, the snail can be removed by boiling in water with a few drops of vegetable oil. Collectors generally also save the operculum, gluing it to a piece of cotton and stuffing it into the shell in the natural position. The boiled snail meat will be very tough and not really fit for eating.
If you plan on eating your snails, the meat should be removed raw. The meat can be removed without harming the shell by slipping a thin knife down the inside curve of the shell and cutting across the opening. This will sever the muscle attaching the shell. If properly cut, the whole animal will easily pull free from the intact shell. This is tricky at first, but will become easier with practice. Alternatively, the shell can be cracked with a hammer to remove the meat.
Once the meat is free of the shell, remove the soft dark spiral shaped organs, slice off the operculum, and cut off the head. Slice the meat crosswise into 1/2 inch steaks, sprinkle with meat tenderizing powder, and pound with a meat hammer. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the tenderizer time to work. If the meat tenderizer contains salt, rinse the steaks in water to remove excess salt before cooking. Dip each steak in egg wash, dredge in flour or bread crumbs, then fry until brown.
Daily catch limit: See current regulations under "Starfish, Urchins, Snails, Shore Crabs, and all Other Marine Invertebrates". In 1999, the Oregon limit was 10 invertebrates per person per day.
For further information:
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Marine Resources Program
2040 SE Marine Science Dr.
Newport, OR 97365