IDEAL TIME TO DIG FOR RAZOR CLAMS

May 10, 2008 12:00 am
Wayne Sargent from Brookings holds part of a limit of razor clams he dug at Meyers Beach. (The Pilot/Larry Ellis).
Wayne Sargent from Brookings holds part of a limit of razor clams he dug at Meyers Beach. (The Pilot/Larry Ellis).

By Larry Ellis

Pilot staff writer

Tides are perfect for razor clams

With everybody down-in-the-mouth about this year's ocean salmon season, I think we're losing sight about all of the other opportunities that are available to us. One of them of course is digging razor clams, and I really dig, digging razor clams.

One of the most important ingredients for a successful razor clam fest are minus tides. Luckily for us, we've still got a few days left today and tomorrow from last week's minus tide cycle. Next weekend begins another string of ideal razor clamming days as well. So grab your clam gun or clam shovel and let's get go clamming.

The first thing you need to do is check with the Department of Agriculture to make sure that your beach of choice has not been closed due to levels of domoic acid or the flagella that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning. The shellfish hotline is 800-448-2474. Luckily, all Oregon beaches from the Columbia River down to the Winchuck are open at this time.

You can dig razor clams at any time, night or day, but it's best if the minus tides start early in the morning so you don't get swept away by a surprise sneaker wave.

Around here, there are really only two places that consistently hold razors year after year: Myers Creek and Bailey Beach. Myers Creek and Meyers Creek are one and the same beaches. You will see road signs spelled one way and viewpoints alongside Highway 101 spelled another way, but the two are synonymous. Myers is clearly pointed out.

Bailey Beach is north of Gold Beach, off old Highway 101 road, near Otter Point Wayside. Bailey's located off one of the paths leading from a turnout, and there used to be a sign that pointed its way. But someone tore down the sign about two years ago, so you'll have to find the beach by trial and error.

Digging razor clams do not come without a little effort or exploration. I remember being ecstatic when I found my first one on my own. So don't expect limits right off the bat. There is a definite learning curve when digging razor clams.

A tide book is critical. You must get to the beach about two hours before low tide, and dig right through low slack and about an hour or two as the tide comes in.

You can dig for razors wet or dry. Digging them wet involves being in the water, usually up to your ankles or shins. You will need a clam shovel to dig wet.

Dry digging, as the name implies, means digging in semi-moist sand as the tide is receding. It can also mean digging in areas further away from the ocean. Dry digging is usually done with a clam gun.

A good wet-digger can limit out more rapidly than a dry-digger, but it requires more finesse and experience.

To find a clam you must first look for its "show". In dry or moist sand the show is usually a little hole about the diameter of a pencil, often accompanied with a slightly raised dimple the size of a nickel. The show can be as subtle as a shallow dimple or impression in the sand as well.

Often, you will see people tapping the ground with the handle of their shovel to get the clam to create a show. This is OK if the beach is not too crowded, but if there are tons of people pounding the sand, it can spook the clams to move deeper in the sand.

And yes – razor clams can move! The bottom has a foot that twirls around in the sand and can dig about a foot a minute. So recognizing its show and digging them properly is crucial.

The top of the razor clam has two siphons and will be pointed slightly away from the water. So if you're digging them dry, you always want to keep the show about an inch off-center so the show is facing the shore side of the gun.

When you find a show, rotate the gun so it goes down a few feet. There is a hole in the handle that, when covered, creates a vacuum. Cover the hole with your thumb and pull up the cylinder of sand. Hopefully it will have a clam inside. I have often found more than one.

When digging wet, you want to look for the two siphons, which collectively are called a flower. They will be about one-half inch apart. If you're lucky, the neck will be showing and you will see a spurt of sand being ejected.

Quickly, but carefully inset the spade of the shovel straight down in the sand and pull the handle toward the ocean to stop the clam from digging. Take out the shovel and replace it with your free hand. Reach down and carefully feel for the clam and pull it out. But be careful. They don't call them razors for nothing.

You must have a shellfish license to dig for razor clams. The limit is the first 15 clams you harvest, regardless of size or if the shells are broken.

Large surfperch caught

all week

High winds didn't prevent fishers from catching some very large redtail and striped surfperch this week. Anglers who were fishing one-half mile up the beach from the Winchuck Wayside, McVay Beach and at the motel in front of Sporthaven Beach brought in a great grade of perch to the cleaning station.

Congratulations to Mindy Andrews from Medford for hauling in some really big redtails. Way to go, Mindy!

For those of you who harvest some razor clams, be sure to cut off about three-eighths of an inch off your clam necks. They make excellent surfperch bait. In Washington, practically all the people I know use them. They give off the most scent and stay on the hook really well. You can catch up to three or more surfperch off one clam neck.

Surfperch are known to cruise beaches like Myers Creek and Pistol River and nip off clam necks.

Rogue and Umpqua

suddenly turn on

Holy Springer City Batman! Sam Waller from Jot's Resort in Gold Beach just gave me a call. For the last several days, boats have been either limiting on springers or getting a couple of fish per boat from Elephant Rock up to Agness.

"There's been at least two fish per boat," says Waller. "And a lot have been getting five fish."

I also spoke with Bob Cobb (www.cobbreelfish.com), veteran guide from the Umpqua. He has had 10 days straight with at least two fish per boat as well.

"I think I'm sitting with 26 or 27 fish, and we've had another 15 on or so," says Cobb. "We had a guy straighten out the hooks on three fish."

As an old gent once told me, never give up on a salmon.

Tight Lines!