Extremely low tides heading into summer will offer shellfish gatherers plenty of beach exposure to harvest clams, oysters and the elusive deep-dwelling geoduck.
“We’ve got a lot of good shellfish opportunities, and have some really long seasons on certain beaches like Dosewallips, Fort Flagler and North Bay,” said Alex Bradbury, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Brinnon.
One popular destination is North Bay in Case Inlet across from Allyn, which is open through Sept. 15.
The public tidelands at North Bay extend more than 1,000 feet to the south, and the farther the walk, the easier it becomes to harvest shellfish. Clams can also be found high on the beach line.
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Access to the beach is an easy, short walk, and the area is abundant with steamer clams and has an enhanced oyster bed. North Bay parking is limited, though, and it is illegal to park along the highway shoulder.
Construction on a new parking lot at North Bay is expected to begin sometime this summer or early fall. That could lead to a closure of the current lot and access to the beach.
“We need to use the existing lot for construction parking, but aren’t sure when work will actually begin,” Bradbury said. “We’ll send out a notice once it is confirmed, and if we get lucky it might not happen until after the September closure.”
Fort Flagler State Park and Rat Island in Jefferson County are open for clams and oysters through Oct. 31. It is very good for butter clams, and geoduck can be found on a low tide of minus 2 feet or more.
The best areas for littleneck and horse clams at Flagler are the Port Townsend Bay (north) side of the spit, in and around the tidal channel that separates the spit from Rat Island. Some Manila clams can be found in the mid-high tidal zone near the boat ramp in Kilisut Harbor.
One popular beach in Puget Sound region is Birch Bay State Park, which is already closed for Paralytic Shellfish Poison concerns.
Hood Canal offers some of the most diverse shellfish-gathering beaches.
Dosewallips State Park is open year-round for oysters, and through Aug. 15 for clams. Access from the parking lot to the beach is a good distance, so don’t forget anything in your vehicle.
Twanoh State Park is open year-round for oysters, but the clam season doesn’t open until Aug. 1 and runs to Sept. 15. Twanoh has good oyster beds. It has been enhanced with clams, and is a good Manila, littleneck, butter and cockle clam beach.
The best clam area at Twanoh extends from southwest of the boat ramp east to the point (just west of the swimming area). Look for oysters on the west end of the beach near the boat ramp in the “day use” section.
Belfair State Park is open year-round for oyster gathering, but the clam season is closed. Be cautious of the muddy beach line.
Duckabush is open year-round for oysters and clams. There is a brief window of opportunity at Potlatch State Park and the adjacent Natural Resources Tidelands, which are open for clams and oysters until June 30.
Clam digging at Eagle Creek is open July 1-31 and while populations are low, it is an excellent oyster beach and open year-round.
The Quilcene Bay Tideland is open daily from sunrise until sunset for clams and oysters through Dec. 31. It doesn’t get much pressure, and has an enhanced oyster bed.
Small-sized steamer clams are abundant at Quilcene Bay, and has a minimum size of 1¼ inches (½ -1½ inches is the standard on all other beaches). Quilcene is also home to some littleneck clams and eastern soft-shell clams.
Many of the geoduck populations are found well below the intertidal area, and are best usually on a minus 2-foot or lower tide. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/geoduck.
Before hitting a beach, do some research, and take note there is a year-round shellfish ban on all beaches on the east side of Puget Sound, from Everett to Olympia, due to pollution, marine toxins and waste-treatment plant closures.
Harmful algae blooms (commonly called red tide) sometimes pop up on a beach at a moment’s notice, and can cause illness or even death. Call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visiting www.doh.wa.gov.
Upcoming low tides
Thursday, minus-1.2 feet at 8:51 a.m.; Friday, -2.4 at 9:38 a.m.; Saturday, -3.1 at 10:24 a.m.; June 23, -3.6 at 11:11 a.m.; June 24, -3.6 at 11:59 1.m.; June 25, -3.1 at 12:46 p.m.; June 26, -2.3 at 1:34 p.m.; and June 27, -1.0 at 2:23 p.m.
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