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Digging for clams is a recreational sport that yields a tasty, economical meal if you know where to dig. Locations that were popular years ago may not be ideal hunting grounds today due to beach erosion, changes in water quality or temperature, over-harvesting and a number of other reasons. West coast states' fish and wildlife websites are treasure troves of information on where to find types of fish and shellfish -- including clams if they have them -- as well as catch limits, licenses, updates and alerts. On the East coast, clam-digging is regulated locally and differs widely from town to town.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has extensive information on public beaches where clam digging is permitted, including a map showing all public beaches and a bar chart showing when clam digging is permitted at each beach. The beaches where clam digging is allowed all year are: Belfair State Park, Brown Point, Duckabush, North Bay, Oakland Bay Recreational Tidelands, Rendsland Creek and Willapa Bay. Check the website (wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/2011-2012WDFWBeachSeasonsBarChart.pdf) for daily limits, licenses, beaches closed to fishing for any reason,and other updates.
Digging for razor clams is popular on Oregon's coast. Razor clams have been most plentiful on the northern coast Clatsop Spit Beaches, which include Seaside, Gearhart, Del Rey Beach, Sunset Beach, Columbia Beach and Clatsop Spit. The Department of Fish and Wildlife website (dfw.state.or.us/mrp/shellfish/razorclams/) has updates, closures, rules and digging instructions. Improper digging of the thin, sharp-edged shells can cause cuts that give this clam its name. Razor clam season is closed from July 15 to September 30 to protect the young clams.
Pacific littleneck clams are found all along the coast of California. They are found in sandy mud and near rocks and reefs, about 6 inches below the surface. The best places to find Pacific littlenecks are Bodega and Tomales bays, in Los Angeles and southern Orange counties, and Malibu Point. Other littleneck clams can also be found along California's coast, but none are as plentiful and easy to find as the Pacific littleneck.
On the Atlantic Coast, clam digging -- like harvesting all shellfish -- is regulated by each township rather than by the state. Before digging, find out about the season for digging each type of clam, licensing requirements, minimum size clams that can be harvested and maximum catch allowed. These rules are likely to differ considerably between townships. In Barnstable, Massachusetts, for example, sea clams must be at least 5 inches long to harvest and the maximum catch is one level 40-quart tote basket per week. Quahogs, soft shell clams, surf clams and razor clams can be found along the northeastern coastline. Farther south, clamdigging is not as popular except among visiting or relocated northerners. Ask local authorities for locations and regulations.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.