Tips and techniques for bay clamming | Community – Tillamook Headlight-Herald

Oregon estuaries are rich with many species of clams, although only a few of these species are commonly harvested, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). With free fishing, clamming and crabbing for President’s Day weekend, it’s time brush up what you’ll find locally.

ODFW says gaper, butter, cockle, littleneck, softshell and purple varnish clams are popularly harvested due to their abundance, size and taste. A wide variety of other bivalve species are found in Oregon estuaries, but not commonly harvested due either to their scarcity or poor taste.

Harvesting bay clams can be fun and relaxing. However, your clamming adventure will be more successful and enjoyable if you know a little about the clams you’ll be digging for, digging techniques and what the weather’s going to be like at the beach.

First, dig around where the clam shows. Come in from the side, not straight down on it to avoid slicing off the neck or breaking the shell. When you’ve dug almost to the depth of the clam, feel around gently with the shovel or your hand – don’t break the shell. Although a clam with a broken shell is still good, the sharp edges of a broken shell can be dangerous. After you’ve removed the clam refill the hole.

As mentioned above, it’s free to fish, crab or clam in Oregon on Saturday, Feb. 16, and Sunday, Feb. 17 in honor of President’s Day weekend. During these two days, no fishing licenses or tags (including a Combined Angling Tag or Columbia River Basin Endorsement) are required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon for both residents and non-residents.

Although no licenses or tags are required, all other fishing regulations apply including closures, bag limits and size restrictions.

According to ODFW, this time of year the best bounties are winter steelhead on the coast, stocked hatchery rainbow trout in the Willamette Valley and mid-coast lakes, and ice fishing in northeast and southeast Oregon.

Clam descriptions provided by ODFW

Gaper clam

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Gaper clams are found in several Oregon estuaries. They are known by a variety of names including blue, empire, horse and horseneck clams. They are Oregon’s largest common clam. Geoducks can grow much larger (as much as 10 pounds!) but are rarely found south of Puget Sound in Washington.

About: Gaper clams are found in several Oregon estuaries. They are known by a variety of names including blue, empire, horse and horseneck clams. They are Oregon’s largest common clam. Geoducks can grow much larger (as much as 10 pounds!) but are rarely found south of Puget Sound in Washington.

Daily limit: 12, out of a total of 20 bay clams (regulations)

Use: Clam steaks, chowder

Digging method: shovel

Habitat: high salinity sandy and/or muddy areas

Digging tips: Dig around the show, coming in from the side, and not straight down on it to avoid slicing off the neck or breaking the shell. When you’ve dug almost to the depth of the clam, feel around gently with the shovel or your hand so you don’t break the shell. Although a clam with a broken shell is still good, sharp edges of a broken shell can be dangerous. After you’ve removed the clam refill the hole.

Butter clam

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Butter clams are most often found in large estuarine systems, such as Coos, Tillamook, and Yaquina, because of their higher salinity preference. They are known by a variety of names including Washingtons, Martha Washingtons, Beefsteak, Quahog.

About: Butter clams are found throughout Oregon’s nearshore areas and larger estuaries. Butter clams are excellent burrowers and abundant in shell, sandstone and even rocky areas. Diggers harvest most butter clams from sandy and muddy substrates where it’s easier to dig. Butter clams are most often found in large estuarine systems, such as Coos, Tillamook, and Yaquina, because of their higher salinity preference. They are known by a variety of names including Washingtons, Martha Washingtons, Beefsteak, Quahog.

Daily limit: 20, in aggregate with other bay clams (regulations)

Use: chowder, steamed, steaks

Digging method: shovel, potato fork

Habitat: high salinity gravel, mud, or sandy areas

Digging tips: Butter clams have a distinctive rectangular show. The shape is usually described as looking like a flathead screwdriver was stuck in the mud.

Cockle

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Cockles are one of few bay clams that are known to move horizontally through the estuary. They are actually quite fast movers by bending their highly-developed muscular foot then quickly straightening it out to “jump” as far as a foot or two at a time.

About: Cockles are “hard shelled” clams and because of their stout shells, they do not have to bury as deeply as other common bay clams. Larger cockles can even be found feeding on the sand’s surface. Cockles are one of few bay clams that are known to move horizontally through the estuary. They are actually quite fast movers by bending their highly-developed muscular foot then quickly straightening it out to “jump” as far as a foot or two at a time.

Daily limit: 20, in aggregate with other bay clams (regulations)

Use: chowder, steamed

Digging M\method: rake, hand

Habitat: high salinity sandy areas

Digging tips: Rake through the sand until you feel the clunk of the hard shell

Littleneck

About: Littleneck clams are highly prized. They are found in rocky or gravelly areas of high, stable salinity. These clams are often confused with Manila littleneck clams, a smaller related (but non-native) clam available on local markets. Only Coos, Yaquina and Tillamook bays have littleneck clams.

Softshell clam

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Softshell clams are native to the East coast, and are believed to have been introduced to Oregon in the late 1800s, about the same time people tried to establish a fishery for the eastern oyster.

About: Softshell clams occur in almost all of Oregon’s estuaries and they can range very high into the estuary. Softshell clams are native to the East coast, and are believed to have been introduced to Oregon in the late 1800s, about the same time people tried to establish a fishery for the eastern oyster.

Daily limit: 36 (regulations)

Use: chowder, steamed, steaks

Digging method: shovel, clam gun

Habitat: brackish , muddy areas

Digging tips: Unlike the other four common species of bay clams, softshell clams they are found not just in the lower estuary, but fairly high up as well. Softshell clams have variable shows. They are generally round, but can also be oblong or rectangular.

Purple varnish clam

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Purple varnish clams were recently introduced to Oregon, most likely from ballast waters from Asia. Purple varnish clams are found in very high densities. 

About: Purple varnish clams were recently introduced to Oregon, most likely from ballast waters from Asia. Purple varnish clams are found in very high densities. Limits were recently increased and separated to allow increased harvest of these. Up to 72 are allowed per day.

A report from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows the best places for crabbing and clamming in Tillamook Bay.

Source: https://www.tillamookheadlightherald.com/community/tips-and-techniques-for-bay-clamming/article_725724d0-2f13-11e9-814e-83366ff469aa.html

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