Digging for clams: In minus-tides, the hunt is on

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate May 01, 2013 05:09 pm

Most of the clam-hunters were successful during Monday morning’s minus-tide on Pebble Beach.
Most of the clam-hunters were successful during Monday morning’s minus-tide on Pebble Beach. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
As the sea rolled back during recent minus-tides, dozens of wader-clad collectors filled the void to seize the briefly exposed cornucopia of marine life.

Minus-tides, unusually low tides, occur around full and new moons, when tide shifts are the greatest due to the sun and moon’s join gravitational pulls on the ocean.

On Monday morning, with a minus-tide scheduled for 9:15 a.m., at least 15 razor clam collectors strolled Pebble Beach, pounding shovel handles into the sand, waiting for the tell-tale sign that a tasty shellfish hid beneath: A “show” appears as a smaller-than-a-dime sink-hole in the sand, described by one clammer as an inverted volcano. 

“The show is caused by the clams feeding or respiration loosening the sand above its neck,” according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.

After seeing the “show,” clammers attempt to pinch the neck of the creature with the shovel’s business-end, then shove their hand into the hole made by the shovel to retrieve their catch. But clammers have to move fast as razor clams can dig down into the sand to depths of 4 feet.

Dozens of clams were found Monday morning by mostly male fishermen-types, but not everyone was successful.

One 76-year-old man started to head home empty-handed, bested by the brisk morning breeze. His friend, who stood back observing, offered to buy him a cup of coffee at “the golden arches” to make up for the losing effort.

Unusually low tides expose rocks — and clams — on Pebble Beach.
Unusually low tides expose rocks — and clams — on Pebble Beach. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Sunday morning brought an even more diverse group of minus-tide opportunists to Pebble Beach: a handful of folks dug in the rocks near Pebble Beach’s split stairs for “steamer clams” (cockles or Pacific littleneck clams); two men attempted to poke-pole some monkeyface eels on the other side of the stairs; nearby another man looked for treasure with a metal detector; and farther north on same beach, the razor clammers poked away at the sand.

There are still a few opportunities this week to partake in the minus-tide bounty or just explore tidepools to observe marine life like crabs, starfish and sea anemones.

Minus-tides will continue today through Thursday:

• Today, -1.1 feet at 10:11 a.m.

• Wednesday, - 0.6 feet at 11:11 a.m.

• Thursday, - 0.2 feet at 12:13 p.m.

A fishing license is required to dig for clams. For littleneck clams, steamer clams and cockles, 50 may be taken in combination, at least 1.5 inches in diameter. Razor clams can only be taken north of Battery Point in Del Norte County during odd-numbered years like this one; 20 may be taken per day regardless of size.

Coming to a beach near you: razor clams such as these.
Coming to a beach near you: razor clams such as these. Photo courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Although a quarantine has been recently implemented for mussels due to toxin concerns, clams are fine to eat if you avoid the digestive organs or viscera, according to California Department of Public Health.

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