One thing you have to know about digging for razor clams, is that you never know what type of hole you will find. Sometimes it is not even a hole, it is an interesting blemish in the sand! These are the most common razor clam “holes”.
- The pinhole: Sometimes they are literally a pinhole in the sand. Just a tiny deep holes
- The dimple: think of a smile dimple in the sand
- The donut: Literally looks like a donut in the sand. (some say they look like tiny volcanos)
If you are unsure if you find a hole, you can step around it. The hole may or may not change or squirt up water. Then you begin to dig with your gun/shovel.
“Ok, I see a hole, what do I do now?”
There are some great tutorials and pictures on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife website.
This is what I recommend:
- Face the ocean and place the gun over the hole a little off center, leaving more room on the ocean side.
- Very very slightly angle your gone towards the ocean. Twist your gun and push down so that you are burying the tube into the sand.
- When you can’t go down any farther, plug the top hole with your thumb and pull up. Your tube will be full of sand. If you feel a crunch, try a slightly different angle. You really don’t want to crush the clam as it will be a lot more difficult to clean.
- Next to your digging site, let your thumb off the hole and dump the sand out quickly. If you don’t see the clam right away, sift through the sand and see if your clam came up in the tube. If you don’t see the clam, hurry back to your hole and see if it’s in the top of the hole. The clam will be trying to dig back down into the sand, so you might have to reach as far as your elbows to find the clam. Sometimes you just miss them and move on. BUT, be sure to look around as you initially start digging because it’s very likely there will be another hole very near. Put your clam in your net or container and keep going.
So you had a blast getting your limit out on the beach, but the most important (and excruciating) task is cleaning the clams. There are all kinds of methods, but this one has been passed down in my family a few generations. Razor clams taste the freshest when you can clean them right after you catch them, or within an hour or so. Otherwise, if you need to transport them, put them on ice and clean them as soon as possible. You will need some way to heat up water (we usually clean them in the kitchen). It’s best to have an assembly line with at least two people.
- First, rinse as much sand off the clams as possible.
- Drop a couple clams at a time in water that is almost boiling. You only want them in there for about 20-30 seconds. Just enough time for their shell to be loose enough to pop off.
- Pull off the shell. After you pull it off, you rinse again and continue to remove more sand. You want to use a paring knife to cut the clam “steak” out.
It is mostly personal preference how you clean them, so I suggest watching a couple YouTube tutorials. If you are not cooking them right away, you can store the clam steaks in plastic baggies and freeze them.
There are so many delicious razor clam recipes! You can dip them in eggs, and batter and fry them up for a chewy tasty treat. Chop or mince them and throw them in some chowder. If you do use them in chowder, you might want to buy a small bottle of clam juice because fresh clams often don’t carry the fishy taste that canned clams do. You can even smoke them or can them. The possibilities are endless.
Razor clamming is a family friendly adventure that everyone should have on their bucket list. Once you make the initial investment in some good clamming equipment, you can enjoy this activity for lifetime. Make sure you watch your littles in the surf and never turn your back to the ocean. We have quite the story about Grandma Betty being taken out in the surf while on the hunt for the biggest clam.
And if you ask anyone about going razor clam digging, it’s more about the whole experience than actually getting the clams. You form routines and traditions and tend to repeat them year after year. We won’t see some of our extended family for an entire year and we will meet on the beach for a clam dig. We all go to the same coffee shop in Long Beach and we NEVER miss out at stopping at the Long Beach bakery for maple bars and GIANT cookies We buy dozens of maple bars at a time. Make sure you make it to the bakery for 10am so you stand a chance of getting your hands on one. They are that good!
Let me know what your favorite clamming traditions are. And if you need a recommendation on a place to stay in Long Beach or decide it might be a place you’d like to buy a cottage and retire… I know “a guy”!
Contact me when you’re ready to start your house hunt in the GREAT Northwest!