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Sunday, February 26, 2006 - Page updated at 12:29 AM

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Razor-clam lovers flock to beaches

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

COPALIS/MOCLIPS, Grays Harbor County — Adults laughed. Kids splashed. Hands got sandy and everyone seemed to delight in getting wet up to their armpits as they dug the not-so-elusive razor clam Friday afternoon.

The three-day razor-clam season that ends today lured multiple generations to Pacific Coast beaches. Hundreds came hoping to scoop up a few of the tasty bivalves highly prized by Northwest gourmets. Motels and RV parks from Kalaloch to Ocean Shores were filled.

This wasn't the first dig of the season, and it probably won't be the last, but with Friday afternoon's glorious sunshine and light but chill breezes, it had to be one of the best days.

"The weather is perfect and everybody is limiting [reaching their legal quota] in 15-20 minutes," said Isabel Vanvladricken, an officer with the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It's good to see everyone having a good time."

Vanvladricken and other officers patrolled the beaches, checking licenses and clam counts. Each clammer must have a valid 2005-2006 fishing license in sight — either worn around the neck or pinned to their jacket. While that sounds easy, Jim "Grandpa" Nutt of Shelton got carried away in the thrill of the dig.

His family was stopped by Vanvladricken for a random check. The daily limit per person is 15 clams — the first 15 gathered, no matter what size.

His granddaughter, Sarah Nutt, a sophomore at Shelton High School and his son, Larry Nutt, each had 15. Grandpa, however, had 16 when Vanvladricken counted each catch.

Razor-clam primer


When and where to clam

Only at evening low tides today at the following beaches:

Long Beach: From the Columbia River north jetty to Leadbetter Point on the Long Beach Peninsula

Twin Harbors: From the south jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor south to the mouth of Willapa Bay

Copalis Beach: From the Grays Harbor north jetty to the Copalis River; includes Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Ocean City and Copalis areas

Mocrocks Beach: From the Copalis River to the Moclips River.

Kalaloch Beach: From South Beach Campground to Brown's Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in Olympic National Park.

No-nos

• For this weekend, no digging before noon.

• Never turn your back completely on the ocean; unexpected waves can be dangerous.

• Watch your footing; holes left by other clammers can be treacherous.

• No digging in razor-clam reserves marked by 10-foot metal poles with signs at the following beaches:

just south of the Ocean City access road on Copalis Beach, on the county line approach to Twin Harbors Beach, 2.8 miles north of the Oysterville access road on Long Beach

What you need

• Each person must have a valid 2005-06 fishing license and each person in a party must have a separate container for their clams. A one-day license costs $7; annual and combination fresh and saltwater fishing and shellfish harvesting licenses are available for $41.61.

• Carry a flashlight or lantern today because low tide is so late.

"I've been coming clamming for 50 years and I remember when 30 a day was the limit," Nutt said. "You get to walking and talking and getting them so fast you get mixed up counting."

He got to keep the extra clam, which he planned to include in his clam fritters.

Vanvladricken said she'd rather see an extra one taken now than see clams tossed on the beach and wasted. She's after the few people who gather 30 or 40.

This is the first razor-clam season LeRoy and Fay Swanberg of Port Angeles have made in 33 years. They were with LeRoy's daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Ken Sayers of Gig Harbor.

The group was thrilled to reach the legal limit in just more than 15 minutes. They were staying overnight at the ocean and planned to clam again Saturday.

The Swanbergs said refrigerating the thin, oblong clams would keep them alive for several days.

Best tool debated

Clammers seemed evenly divided as to what was the best tool — a shovel with a bent blade or a clam tube (sometimes called a clam gun). When endangered, razor clams dig as deep as a foot or more into the sand.

The clam tube, several feet of metal or plastic pipe, is pushed down, around the clam. The handle end is capped with a small air hole. Once inserted into the sand, the digger covers the air hole with a thumb or finger. That creates a small vacuum and allows the clammer to pull up a core of sand. Then the clammer paws through the sand to find the clam.

Advocates of shovels dig to the side of the clam until they spot the shell.

Rose Extine of Puyallup had the system down pat. She stomped around the wet sand until a clam hole showed — a dimple in the sand made as the clam retracts its neck. She and her husband, Doug Extine, had reached their limit and were pointing out possible clams to Doug's father, Lawrence Extine of Onalaska, Lewis County.

Doug's brother, Mike Extine of Olympia, had reached the limit and was planning to cook dinner for the extended family.

"Linguine with clams," he said. "Clams, a bit of olive oil, white wine, garlic and a little parsley."

Indeed, the razor clams are prized for their tender flesh and mild flavor.

A few feet north of the Extines, Zane Loftquist, 6, waded into holes left by clammers and was creating pathways for water to recede. He had already found 15 clams and was more interested in playing than watching his family from Oregon dig. His grandmother, Laurie Loftquist, and a friend, Irene Fuller, watched Zane. Their arthritis prevented them from digging.

Aches aside, they planned to enjoy the clams when the families returned to their trailers.

"We try to teach the kids not to like clams," said Irene Fuller. "They can have a hot dog, and we can have their clams."

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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