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Sunday, January 20, 2013 - Page updated at 05:30 p.m.
Great season for clam diggers, and it should continue
By Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times staff reporter
The coastal razor clam midseason report card has garnered excellent grades, and all signs say it will blossom well into spring.
"We're a little behind where I thought we'd be as far as clams dug (stormy weather and lower turnout are partly to blame), but we've definitely got more available to harvest compared to last year," said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.
Coastwide 88,000 diggers harvested 1.2 million clams since the season began Oct. 13 in contrast to 1.3 million at the same time last year. Depending on the beach, only 25 percent or less of the total recreational quota has been achieved through January.
This is also the time when clams are fattening up as they near spawning time in late spring and summer.
The average size of clams harvested this month were 4.1 inches (compared to 3.6 inches in October) at Long Beach; 4.5 inches (4.1) at Long Beach; 4.7 inches (4.2) at Copalis; and 4.5 (4.0) at Mocrocks.
The most recent digs Jan. 8-14 generated an average of 14.7 clams per person — the first 15 clams dug is daily limit. When the weather has cooperated the majority of diggers since October have gotten good numbers of clams on all beaches.
The next series of digs are Jan. 25-27 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors, and Jan. 26 at Copalis and Mocrocks beaches. Digging will be open after noon each day.
Low tides: Jan. 25, 0.0 feet at 5:44 p.m.; Jan. 26, -0.2 at 6:18 p.m.; and Jan. 27, -0.2 at 6:50 p.m.
Other tentative dates: Feb. 7 and Feb. 11-12 at Twin Harbors; Feb. 8-9 at Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Copalis and Mocrocks; and Feb. 10 and Feb. 23-24 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors.
State Fish and Wildlife officials are confident digging will continue through May.
"We'll take a look after these next series of digs, and announce dates for March," Ayres said. "The March digs will occur during evening tides, and then we'll switch to (morning low tides) in April and May. The season may likely go until Memorial Day on some beaches."
Columbia smelt update
It has been a few years since the last smelt dip-nets were soaked in the Columbia River and its tributaries.
Columbia River smelt were listed May 17, 2010 on the Endangered Species Act, prompting fishery managers to permanently shut the books in 2011 on what had been a very popular fishery.
In its heydays of the 1980s, millions of Pacific smelt would flood the Lower Columbia River, and migrate to tributaries like the Cowlitz and Sandy rivers. Thousands of sport dip-netters would line the shores to catch them by the bucket loads.
Smelt abundance began to show declines during the early 1990s.
The 2013 smelt outlook doesn't look rosy as fisheries managers take into account indicators of abundance.
One positive is there were modest improvements in adult smelt returns during 2008; a relatively high level bycatch of smelt in 2009 during the Canadian ocean shrimp fisheries; favorable ocean conditions from 2008-2010; and anecdotal accounts of an increase in older age smelt bycatch during 2011 U.S. ocean shrimp fisheries.
On the downside, there was low Columbia mainstem larval densities during the winter from 2008 to 2010; a decrease adult smelt biomass tonnage in 2010 to 2012 Canadian ocean shrimp fisheries; and periodic warm ocean conditions during the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010.
Jan. 25-Feb. 3: The Seattle Boat Show at Qwest Field Event Center and South Lake Union in Seattle (www.seattleboatshow.com); Jan. 23-27: The Washington Sportsmen's Show at Puyallup Fair and Events Center (www.otshows.com); Feb. 6-10: Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show at Portland Expo Center (www.otshows.com); Feb. 7-9: Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Invitational (360-378-5562); and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby Feb. 16-18 (www.GardinerSalmonDerby.org).
Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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