Clam digging a go for New Year’s Day weekend

  • By Wayne Kruse Herald Writer
  • Thursday, December 24, 2009 12:01am
  • Sports

Marine toxin levels higher than deemed safe for human consumption have been found in razor clams on the Oregon coast recently, forcing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to close its north coast beaches to digging and raising anxiety levels among Washington diggers looking toward popular New Year’s holiday tides.

Tests have cleared Washington clams, however, and the New Year’s dig is on. Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch beaches will be open Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, and all of those, with the exception of Kalaloch, will also be open Jan. 2 One beach — Twin Harbors — will open for a fourth evening, Jan. 3.

Tides are as follows: Dec. 31, minus 1.1 feet at 6:16 p.m.; Jan. 1, minus 1.8 feet at 7:01 p.m.; Jan. 2, minus 1.6 feet at 7:45 p.m.; and Jan. 3, minus 1.2 feet at 8:29 p.m.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife clam manager Dan Ayres in the agency’s Montesano office said the New Year’s dig, when it happens, is always one of the most popular of the year.

“The last time it opened — I think it was 2006-07 — conditions were favorable and we estimated a crowd of 22,000 diggers on New Year’s Eve alone,” Ayres said. “You can expect similar numbers this time around, if the weather and surf forecasts are good.”

These will mostly be nighttime lantern digs, but Ayres said there’s a chance that those who prefer chasing their clams in daylight might be able to do so for a portion of the first couple of tides. He said beaches at the south end of Twin Harbors and the north end of Long Beach are both of a relatively flat gradient, meaning more clams uncover more quickly in each tidal cycle.

Ayres said larger clams will be found north of Grays Harbor, on Copalis and Mocrocks beaches, but not Kalaloch. “We look for very good digging on all the beaches,” he said, “but clams are averaging almost an inch longer, in some cases, North of Ocean Shores.”

Ayres said he always enjoys working the New Year’s dig. “Everyone has a lot of fun,” he said. “Beach fires, fireworks. I get offered smoked salmon and all sorts of good things.”

The department has a good rundown on razor clam digging, including shovel and tube techniques, cleaning and cooking, on its Web site,, then fish/shellfish.

Outdoor info

Your ‘umble scribe is completely convinced that print media — newspapers, books, magazines, brochures — will remain accountable, reliable, important sources of outdoor information, in one form or another, for the foreseeable future. But that said, it’s also impossible to ignore increasingly popular tech sources.

And that brings up our local outdoor electronic entrepreneur extraordinaire, TJ Nelson of Lake Stevens, who recently announced a coup of sorts. The relatively young outdoor talk show which he hosts with Rob Endsley and Rob Tobeck — The Outdoor Line, Saturday mornings on ESPN Radio 710 — has proven so popular that the network has rewarded the trio with more air time.

“ESPN has responded to our top spot in the ratings by expanding our time slot to three hours each Saturday, 6 to 9 a.m.,” Nelson said.

And, as you probably guessed, the radio show numbers have started spilling over to his local outdoor Web site,

There’s a lot of good stuff on the site, but one of the most unique features is what Nelson calls “The Resource Line,” a new, single-page reference program.

“In other words,” he said, “pick a topic — salmon fishing, duck hunting, whatever — and with a click of the mouse you have video, podcasts, blogs and articles on your topic, in an instant.”

Other Internet sites Nelson recommends include the bulletin boards Piscatorial and; the site to track local river levels,; a site which gives you wind speeds on the Sound,; and a site which gives 6 to 10-day, to three month long-range weather outlooks via NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center,


Word through the grapevine is that Blackman’s Lake got another plant of TroutLodge triploid rainbow on Tuesday, courtesy of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club.

Similarly, Jim Brauch of the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club said his group planted Flowing Lake, Silver Lake and North Gissberg Pond with ‘bows mostly in the 12- to 14-inch range but with a few larger, on Monday. Each lake received about 750 fish, paid for with proceeds from the club’s annual coho derby, Brauch said.

“And we didn’t plant Lake Goodwin, but fishing has been very good there recently,” Brauch said.


The Forks area is still the place to be for the avid steelheader, as our local rivers have been very slow and the southwest, including the Cowlitz, has been only fair, at best.

State checks on the Bogachiel over the weekend showed good results, with 153 anglers releasing two wild and 14 hatchery steelhead, and keeping 153 hatchery fish. The checker talked to 105 bank anglers and 48 boat fishermen, and the results worked out to about one fish for every 4.2 hours on the water. Friday and Saturday were hot, but the river went out by noon Sunday.

Checks on the Calawah, tallied one wild fish released and 8 hatchery fish kept for 23 fishermen, and on the lower Hoh it was 14 with three hatchery fish kept, but the river was only fishable Friday. Checks from the previous weekend on the Hoh showed 74 anglers with four wild and 56 hatchery fish.

Locally, the North Fork Stillaguamish has closed to steelheading, as of Monday, from the Whitehorse Bridge downstream to French Creek. The closure includes the Fortson Hole area, and was instituted because of a low return of brood stock to the Whitehorse Hatchery.



State checks of seven smelt jiggers at Cornet Bay on Friday showed an average of about 40 fish per person.

Local blackmouth

Salmon fishermen have been doing fairly well, off and on, in marine areas 8-1 and 8-2, when the weather has cooperated. The Elger Bay/Fox’s Spit/Baby Island area continues to produce fairly consistently, among others.

State checks at the Camano State Park ramp on Saturday tallied 15 chinook for 46 anglers. At the Port of Everett ramp on Saturday it was 31 fishermen with 10 fish.


All Puget Sound marine areas still open to recreational crabbing will close at the end of the day Jan. 2, and crabbers will then have 13 days to report their winter catch. Failure to report will result in a $10 fine levied when buying a 2010 crab endorsement.

Report online, Jan. 3-15, at, or mail the catch record card to WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501.

Drano prediction

Spring chinook returns forecast for Drano Lake in 2010, if they indeed materialize, would be the largest since at least 1970, according to state biologists. The prediction is for 28,900 adult kings to return to the mouth of the Little White Salmon River, above Bonneville Dam on the Columbia, well above the 10,700 fish which returned last spring and the 10,500-fish 10-year average.

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