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Shellfish gathering has become a popular outdoor activity on Puget Sound and Hood Canal, and spring is one of the better times of the year to hit the beaches for clams and oysters.

The recreational clam digging seasons on several beaches have been adjusted based on results from population, harvest and effort assessments taken by state Fish and Wildlife.

Clam populations have increased allowing for longer seasons at Indian Island County Park, Potlatch State Park, Potlatch Department of Natural Resource (DNR) tidelands, Port Gamble Heritage Park and Twanoh State Park.

Taylan Yuasa hoists up a geoduck from a northern Puget Sound beach. Photo by Mark Yuasa.
Taylan Yuasa hoists up a geoduck from a northern Puget Sound beach. Photo by Mark Yuasa.

North Bay has seen a slight increase in the clam population so adjustments were made to reduce user group conflicts and increased pressure on infrastructure at the access site. The state-owned oyster reserves and contiguous state-owned tidelands south and east of the power-line crossing are open for clams and oysters from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.

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“We’ve made a big shift in how we manage North Bay, and decided a later season would help avoid user conflicts (the beaches are a popular place for later-winter and spring fly-fishing), and it is one of the busiest access sites (with very limited parking),” said Camille Speck, a state Fish and Wildlife shellfish manager in Port Townsend.

With North Bay closed this spring and summer, Specks points out there are other shellfish options for those coming from the Seattle and Tacoma areas.

“People may want to check out Oakland Bay (located off Highway 3 north of Shelton), which has good parking to the oyster reserves (and an abundant population of Manila clams) that are open year-round,” Speck said. “Belfair State Park (located a few miles west of Belfair) is open year-round for mainly oysters. There are some clams at Belfair mainly Manila clams.”

Speck says the season at Potlatch State Park off Highway 101 in Hood Canal has been extended from April 1 through Aug. 31, and the enhanced oyster beds on the flats look fantastic and remains clammy too.

The Potlatch Department of Natural Resource tidelands are also open for clams and oysters from April 1 through Aug. 31 only.

The existing hours of darkness harvest restriction at Quilcene Bay Tidelands is no longer necessary, and there is no conservation or management need to limit the hours. The tidelands are open for clams and oysters from April 1 through Dec. 31, with no restrictions on hours of harvest.

Lummi tribal member Lonnie “Lumpy” James shows off a handful of Manila clams just raked from the sand.  (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)
Lummi tribal member Lonnie “Lumpy” James shows off a handful of Manila clams just raked from the sand. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times)

Indian Island County Park/Lagoon Beach from the jetty boundary with Port Townsend Ship Canal east to the beach access stairs on Flagler Road near milepost 4 is open for clams and oysters from Aug. 15 through Sept. 30.

Elsewhere the Twanoh State Park is open for clams from July 15 through Sept. 30 only, but the area is mainly an oyster show with a season that is open year-round.

The Penrose Point State Park at Carr Inlet in southern Puget Sound is currently open for clams and oysters now through April 30 only.

Diggers should note that all eastern mainland beaches from Everett south into southern Puget Sound are also closed for shellfish due to unsafe pollution levels.

Before heading to a beach, call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the website at www.doh.wa.gov. Also check the state fisheries hotline at 866-880-5431 and website at http://wdfw.wa.gov. State Fish and Wildlife offers a good interactive shellfish map at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/beachreg.

Roberto Quintana of Goose Point Oysters with a fresh oyster just harvested from Willapa Bay, aboard the oyster dredge Nancy N.
Roberto Quintana of Goose Point Oysters with a fresh oyster just harvested from Willapa Bay, aboard the oyster dredge Nancy N.

Dig into plenty of fun at ShellFest

A great event to find out everything you need to know about shellfish is happening at Penrose State Park’s ShellFest from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 30.

“The event celebrates clean water and healthy shellfish in Puget Sound, and is part of the Washington Shellfish Initiative,” said Janet Shonk, the South Sound Area State Parks operation manager. “Also (April 30) is the last day that shellfishing is open at Penrose State Park, and people can come out and dig clams and shuck some oysters (a state shellfish gathering license is required).”

There will be various informational booths to help promote clean water plus exhibits, children activities, beach walks, ice table display, music by the 133rd Army National Guard Band and The Blue Grass Minstrels, and education about restoring and protecting shellfish beds in Puget Sound and the coast.

Washington became the first state in the nation to establish a shellfish initiative to strengthen the health of shellfish resources and bolster their role in the state’s economy.

There will also be low-tide beach walks guided by local experts, and a shellfish lunch provided by Taylor Shellfish Farms. Lunch is from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Lunch is free with a suggested donation of $7 per person or $20 per family to benefit the Washington State Parks Foundation.

Admission is free, but visitors will need to purchase of have a Discover Pass for vehicle access to the event. Details:  www.discoverpass.wa.gov.

Penrose Point State Park in Pierce County is a 165-acre marine and camping park on the shores of southern Puget Sound.  Take in the views of Mayo Cove and Carr Inlet with fir and cedar trees and the landscape covered with ferns, rhododendrons, wildlife and birds.

If you can’t attend the first event then make plans to go on June 24 to the Camano Island  ShellFest at Camano Island State Park.

The event is hosted by the Washington State Parks  and Recreation Commission and the Washington State Parks Foundation.

Other event partners include the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Department of Health, Washington State Department of Ecology BEACH Program, the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, Washington Sea Grant, Washington State Parks Boating Safety Program, National Wildlife Federation, Washington Water Trails Association, Washington Conservation Corps., Harbor WildWatch, Pierce Conservation District, Washington CoastSavers, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Key Pen Parks, Pierce County Shellfish Partners, and KGI Watershed.

Check out Razor Clam Festival this weekend

The Razor Clam Festival and Seafood Extravaganza is Saturday through Sunday at the Ocean Shores Convention Center, and is hosted by the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino.

Activities include Kids Corner, local and regional chefs, clam chowder competition, vendors and food demonstrations, and a clam gun decoration contest.

Coastal razor clam digging during fall, winter and spring is a highly popular recreational activity that lures more than half-a-million diggers to beaches who’ve averaged millions of clams dug annually.

Hours are: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $3 or $5 for all three days, and kids under age 12 are free. For more information, go to http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2017/03/14/ocean-shores-razor-clam-festival/.