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Originally published August 31, 2013 at 4:21 PM | Page modified August 31, 2013 at 9:16 PM

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Clam digging has been great, and should stay that way

Daily average of clams is nearly the daily limit

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Coastal razor clam diggers have been riding a high note lately, and this coming fall, winter and spring should each be another banner season.

“Razor clam populations look very good on most beaches,” said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager. “We’ll see more digging days than last year, and it’ll be a stupendous season.

“At Mocrocks, the clam population is the highest we’ve ever measured dating back 20 years,” Ayres said of the area just north of Ocean Shores. “Populations are also up at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Long Beach. Short of any marine toxin issues, this is pretty exciting news.”

Diggers can expect a lot more digging opportunities at Long Beach and Twin Harbors, and north of Grays Harbor also will get additional days to harvest clams.

A total of 420,000 digger trips were made in 2012-13 with 6.1 million clams dug for an average of 14.5 clams per person (the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is a daily limit).

“It was a darn good season, and the highest number of razor clams we’ve harvested in a given season in a long time,” Ayres said.

For comparison, in 2011-12 a total of 194,976 digger trips produced 2.5 million clams for 13.2 per digger average; and in 2010-11, a total of 244,500 produced 3.2 million for 13.1.

Unlike last year, when clams were abundant but small in size, surveys taken this summer paint a much different picture.

“Overall, the size of clams will be larger than last year by a half an inch or so,” Ayres said. “We’ll see some nice clams coming off the beaches right from the get-go, and they will only grow as we head into springtime.”

The economic impact of the razor clam season is of high importance to coastal communities, especially during fall, winter and early spring when it is considered a “quiet time.” The state Fish and Wildlife management plan last year showed openings on an average season generate about $22 million in revenue.

The only downside was Kalaloch off the northern coast, which has been in a funk for quite some time although recent clam surveys showed a slight increase.

“Kalaloch has been a disappointment, and the last time it was open (in 2011-12) we only offered three days of digging in the spring,” Ayres said. “We haven’t seen a good dig there in a long time, and it goes back a decade (to the 2003-04 season).”

Dungeness crab fishery ending

The summer Dungeness crab fishery in most areas of Puget Sound comes to an end at sunset on Monday, and crab catch cards must be submitted from Tuesday to Oct. 1. The San Juan Islands (Marine Catch Area 7) north and south regions will stay open, and anglers in those areas must use their winter catch record cards. It is vital that all crabbers submit their catch-record cards even if they didn’t catch any crabs. Those who don’t submit reports will be penalized $10 when they purchase a 2014 crab endorsement. Winter crab fisheries in Puget Sound will be announced sometime in early October.

myuasa@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8780

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