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clam gun dance
Digging Razor Clams

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How to dig razor clams

Be in the right place

The 18 mile stretch of Clatsop beaches account for 95% of Oregon’s razor clam harvest. The razor clam population in this area is much more dense than any other area in the state.

Other area’s such as Indian Beach (Cannon Beach); Cannon Beach; Short Sands (North of Manzanita); Cape Meares Beach (Tillamook); Agate Beach (North of Newport); North Beach and South Beach (Newport); Waldport Beach; North Umpqua Spit (Winchester Bay); Bastendorff Beach and North Spit (Coos Bay); Whiskey Run (Bandon); and Meyers Creek Beach (Gold Beach).

Be there at the right time

The lower the tide, the more area will be available. Minus tides are best, plan on being there two hours before peak low tide. During times of less swell clams are likely to be closer to the surface, and therefore easier to detect and dig.

Find a clam

A razor clams neck near the surface of the beach produces a distinct “show”. Shows are found most commonly by one of two methods: Looking for small round dimples in dry sand or pounding a shovel handle in receding surf.

Occasionally, if you’re lucky and watching carefully you can pick them out as they are feeding. Commonly known as “necking” this behavior causes very small “V” shaped breaks in the receding surf and clams can be easily pinpointed. More about shows.

Start digging

Razor clams dig fast so you must dig quickly, but dig carefully as they are named "razors" for a good reason.


Digging techniques

 Shovel digging in dry sand

STEP ONE:

Insert shovel straight down (6 inches deep) perpendicular to the clams position in relation to the beach.

 

insert shovel

STEP TWO:

Push the shovel handle forward using the leverage of the shovel to pinch the clams neck. This inhibits their ability to dig.

push shovel

STEP THREE:

Slide the shovel out and replace it with your hand.

reach in

STEP FOUR: 

Carefully detect the clams shell and dig with your hand to remove it.

 
Remove clam

STEP FIVE:

Collect your prize!

 
Collect your prize!

 

 Gun or tube digging in the dry sand

STEP ONE:

Place the clam gun so that it is off-center of the show with extra room on the ocean side. Razor clams shows are typically not directly above where the clam is and are at a slight angle towards the ocean.

 

gun placement

STEP TWO:

With the air hole on the clam gun open, drive the gun straight down.

Driving clam gun straight down

STEP THREE:

Place your thumb or finger over the air hole of the clam gun. Lift the column of sand slowly and with your legs. This can be fairly heavy and it's important that you use proper lifting technique.

Lifting clam gun

STEP FOUR: 

Remove your thumb from the air hole, shake sand out of gun.

empty clam gun

STEP FIVE:

Collect your prize!

gun with clam

Razor clam wastage

gun with clam
Wastage from one day during a May 2004 survey

Wastage is the loss of clams in the process of harvesting by deliberate discarding or reburying of razor clams contrary to harvest regulations. Many diggers feel only clams of a certain size are acceptable and smaller are discarded or reburied. Some clams are damaged in the attempt of being dug and are also left in the holes while others are not found by the harvester. ODFW has documented incidents of wasting small clams where 30-40 percent of dug clam holes contain broken or small clams. Fully 80 percent of the discarded clams die because they are broken, have their necks cut off, or are improperly reburied.

Three factors that make small clams vulnerable for wastage

  • The rapid growth of young clams during the spring and summer.
  • During this time frame, mature clams are beginning to or have spawned and are less apt to show than the younger clams.
  • By spring and summer, fishing and natural mortality have reduced the number of older clams.

Helpful hints to reduce wastage

  • Look for siphon holes or “shows” that are dime size or larger to avoid small clams. Small “shows”, especially those smaller than the diameter of a pencil, are commonly associated with small clams.
  • If you use a clam gun, please make sure they are at least 4 inches in inside diameter.
  • Remember that harvesters must retain the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition. Small and broken clams must be included in the bag limit.

ODFW monitors wastage throughout the harvest season by re-digging harvester holes to see if they contain discarded clams. This data is used to help estimate the annual take of razor clams and to also let managers track wastage rates for future management actions.

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