razor-clam-digging

Washington State Record Razor Clam

The weather and tides were in our favor, so we headed West… like any true adventurer does. Word had spread that clamming on the Washington Coast was open for business this weekend, so my friend Ryan and best friend Miles made the 3 hour drive from Seattle to the coastal town of Copalis Beach.

Walking into the Green Lantern Tavern is similar to walking into a bar in the Old West. Swing open the doors and you aren’t sure if you will meet a sultry country girl, a drunk logger, a shootout, blue hairs playing bingo, or the best damned prime rib dinner you’ve ever eaten! But the word at the bar was that the mossbacks were showin’ this week on the beach and that meant good times for us clammers.

Mossback is a term used to describe Razor Clams so large, and so old that they have an easily distinguished dark mossy coloring to their shell. Well, were we in for a surprise.

We made our way onto Copalis Beach, one of the few Washington Coast beaches regularly open to the harvesting of Razor Clams. We hit the beach one hour before true low tide, and we already had plenty of company.

While most clammers head out to the surfline and look for any clam show, Ryan and I were in search of the Mossbacks. Miles was a little preoccupied with a nasty tennisball he had found in the rear of my vehicle. Miles is a Yellow Lab, so he rarely helps the clamming cause; usually he just prances on the beach and looks for strangers to annoy.

Ryan & I stalked the beach searching for shows… small, small, meh-medium, small, small… ect. Then, as our wandering paths converged, Ryan and I spotted at the same show at almost the exact same time. Not only was it the largest show we had seen this morning, it was arguably the largest show I have ever seen in my life!

For those of you that are a little confused when I use the term Show… that is the small impression made when a clam living above the waterline pushes sand from its valve, it looks like a small crater on the beach. Normal shows are smaller than a half-dollar piece… this show was about 2 feet in diameter!

We decided to try and conquer it together. About 4 feet Oceanside of the show, Ryan and I dug out a trough roughly 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep. We dug with care, as Razor Clams tend to notice nearby disturbances and dive into the sand beyond reach. We dug and dug. We eventually reached a consensus that it was time to make our move. Donning my clam shovel, I made my way into the hole and gently started scraping sand from the clamside wall of our hole towards the sleeping giant. One shovelful after another. Time was not in our favor; as everyone knows, the tide waits for no man! (I think whoever said that was referring to us clammers).

As I gingerly scraped sand from the beast, a wall of sand collapsed off the front of the beastly bivalve, exposing the meaty mass from a Razor Clam over 6 feet in length!!!!

Sweat dripped off my brow as I anxiously made my way towards the clam. After an eternity of seemingly slow-motion digging, everything happened at once! My final scrape revealed the meaty crust of the Razor Clam, so succulent and obese it couldn’t even close its shell, just like its smaller brethren.

I cleared the sand from the base of the shell carefully, but a clam this sized wasn’t born yesterday and it sensed imminent danger. As it started to shift downward away from danger, Ryan dove headfirst into the watery sand at the bottom of the hole and made a desperate move to thwart its escape. The only way to disable a moving Razor Clam is to disable its power: the digger. He dove towards the base of the clam shell. I knew what he was thinking, cripple the digger and you have bested the clam!

Ryan, half disappeared, head-first and waist-deep was determined. The only part of Ryan exposed above the soupy sand at the base of the clam were his two flailing legs. Then Ryan thrust an arm upward… as if he needed something. While temporarily confused, I came to my senses. He was asking for a weapon! I placed my Beau-Mac clam shovel into his hands and down it disappeared into the mess. Let it be said that Ryan is a diver, he has trained himself to hold his breath for an impressive amount of time so I wasn’t worried one bit. The chaos level reached critical mass! Ryan’s legs made one spastic straining jolt. My heart sank: suffocation? Strangulation by clam digger? An instant passed and I noticed that the bivalve’s shell contracted then released. The battle was won, the giant clam stood there lifeless. I grabbed Ryan’s legs and yanked him to the surface.

Ryan had thrust the shovel from the base of the digger upward into the clam’s heart. Like a paralyzer to the chode, he completely incapacitated the beast! At this point, the tide was quickly pushing up the beach. We took a moment to breathe, then rushed the car down to the surfline to rope the clam to safety.

We strapped it to the top of my Toyota 4Runner and cruised back to Seattle. We noticed a few surprised motorists on I-5, but overall the commute home was fairly uneventful. I am kicking myself for not making it to one of the truck stops along the way to check the actual weight of the clam, I am positive it was a Washington State if not World Record. I will tell you it took 5 hours to clean, and I plan on using the shell as a hot tub. What an amazing adventure and if this doesn’t get you excited to hit the Washington Coast for some tasty Razor Clams I don’t know what will!