Razor clamming resumes on Clatsop Beach

Jerry Alto captured his grandson, Odin, showing off his first-ever razor clam in this 2015 photo at Gearhart Beach. Photo: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Razor clamming reopened from Tillamook Head in Seaside to the mouth of the Columbia River on Friday, March 1. The 18-mile stretch of Clatsop beaches account for 95 percent of Oregon’s razor clam harvest.

The area was closed to protect undersize clams and give them a chance to grow after surveys in the fall of 2018 found mostly small clams with shell lengths between 2-3 inches, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

“The small razor clams on Clatsop Beach we observed this fall have grown at a rate we anticipated,” ODFW Shellfish Biologist Matt Hunter said. “Currently, the dominant size of clams is between 3.5 and 3.75 inches with few larger clams available. As the spring progresses and we get longer days, more food will be available and the clams will continue to grow.”

ODFW said Clatsop Beach is Oregon’s most popular area for razor clamming and can be open Oct. 1-July 14 each year as long as Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) testing finds clams are safe to eat. Recent tests show razor clams from Clatsop Beach are safe to consume.

Razor clams have a long, narrow, thin shell with a smooth brown coating. They are found in stable, sandy, surf-swept beaches of the open coast and some coastal bays. Razor clams have the ability of digging up to a foot per minute and have been found more than four feet deep in the sand.

The best clamming is during low tide (and minus tides are the best) and when ocean swells are low as that is when clams will be nearer the surface, according to ODFW. When a razor clam extends its neck near the surface of the beach it produces a distinct “show.” Shows are found most commonly by one of two methods: looking for small round dimples in dry sand or pounding a shovel handle in receding surf.

Once you find a show, start digging either with a shovel or clam gun. Razor clams dig fast, so you must dig faster. Be careful reaching into the hole to retrieve your clam – they’re named razor clams for a reason. These clams have a very thin shell that can be easily broken by a digging shovel. ODFW said that is why you are required to keep the first 15 clams you dig.

Other areas that also have razor clams include Indian Beach (Cannon Beach); Cannon Beach; Short Sands (North of Manzanita); Cape Meares Beach (Tillamook); Agate Beach (North of Newport); North Beach and South Beach (Newport); Waldport Beach; North Umpqua Spit (Winchester Bay); Bastendorff Beach and North Spit (Coos Bay); Whiskey Run (Bandon); and Meyers Creek Beach (Gold Beach).

Call ODA’s Shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448-2474 or visit ODA’s Recreational Shellfish Safety Page or ODFW’s Recreation Report to check for any closures before clamming or crabbing.