Clamming on the Oregon Coast is an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages and certainly everyone will enjoy the end result which is a delicious clam dinner. Being successful at clam digging takes a little practice and a little know-how. There are regulations that you need to follow. Equipment can be as simple as a shovel or a clam tube and a bucket.
You can dig for mud clams in the estuaries or go for the popular razor clams on the sandy beaches. A Razor Clam is an oblong brown clam. They move fast so you also have to be fast. The wetter the sand, the faster they go. Consider wearing boots.You can dig any time of the year if the beach is open.
Before you go you need to call the shellfish safety hotline for the latest information on beaches that may be closed to clamming due to the "red tide". The red tide usually occurs in the summer months. It can, however, happen any time of the year. During a red tide the clams are eating algea that are toxic and can make humans ill. The ODA checks the ocean water on a regular basis and closes beaches to clamming when it is present. The ODA numbers to call are 1-800-448-2474 or (503) 986-4728 outside of Oregon. Do not rely on the ODA's website for this information because it is not always updated as fast as the telephone recordings.
You have to have a license for clamming on the Oregon Coast. The easiest way to purchase a license is through sporting goods stores or at shops on the coast. The cost at the present time (2007) is $6.50 for an Oregon resident and $16.50 for a non-resident. A non-resident can get a temporary 3-day license for $9.00. The current limit for Razor Clams is 15 per person. If two people are working as a team, the limit is still 15. The limit for bay clams such as Butter, Littleneck, Gaper, or Cockle Clams is 20 and 12 of these can be Gaper. The limit for Softshell clams is 36.
Now if in the digging, you break the clam's shell, you are not allowed to throw that clam back. You have to keep it and count it as part of your limit. You can still eat it but it may be more difficult to clean. Which brings up something else. There is a reason these are called razor clams. A broken shell can be sharp as a razor blade. Be careful!
The best beaches for digging razor clams are those from Seaside north to the Columbia River. Other beaches do have clams but they are fewer in number. Agate Beach and Waldport beach can be good. On the south coast Whiskey Run Beach and Myers Creek Beach are good. Other beaches will also have clams but not as many.
The best time to go clamming on the Oregon Coast is when there is a minus low tide--a minus two feet tide is best. You need to get there one to two hours before low tide.
Plan your trip by looking at the Oregon Coast Tide Tables.
Look for little holes in the sand or a depression (called a dimple). If you don't see any, hit the sand a few times with the handle of your shovel. This will cause the holes to open up. Place your shovel four to six inches away from the hole between the ocean and the clam. Your shovel blade should be straight up and down and the handle should be pointing towards the land. Scoop out the sand. Do this two or three times and reach in to see if you can feel the clam and pull it out. Don't get your shovel so close to the clam that you break the shell. It is easier for beginners to use a clam tube or gun. You can usually rent these and the shovels also.
Watch the following videos to see how it is done. The first one shows clamming with a shovel. He is actually in the water on Agate Beach, north of Newport, with a -2.3 tide. To find where the clam is he watches for a little stream of sand shooting up in the water. That's why he says, "Wait until the water clears." This video is less than two minutes long. Courtesy of YouTube.
The next video shows how to use a tube gun. She gets a real big clam. This video, courtesy of YouTube is about half a minute long.
Sometimes you can get the clam shovels and guns from the vacation rental where you are staying. If not, the landlord should be able to tell you where to go.
HERE'S HOPING YOU HAVE A GOOD TIME CLAMMING ON THE OREGON COAST, A GREAT CATCH, AND A DELICIOUS DINNER!