The future looks splendid for coastal razor clam populations.
While diggers are soaking up the good times during the fall season, it appears baby razor clams are popping up by the millions and millions.
“We’re seeing a great set of juvenile clams, and I’ve been coming out to the beaches for more than 33 years and have never seen a set like this myself,” said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager. “I talked with one of my (retired) colleagues, and he could only remember one other time when it was as heavy as this.”
Most of these juvenile razor clams measure between 10 and 15 millimeters, which is just about the size of a fingernail.
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Since the season began in late September, folks on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks have been digging up oodles of the tiny clams.
“It is amazing when you see all these pin prick holes on the beaches, and sometimes you’ll get about 20 of them in one shovelful,” Ayres said. “People are worried about these little guys dying off, but they have a good ability to dig right back into the sand.”
Based on a growth study in 2009-10, shellfish managers determined that juvenile clams’ growth depends on ocean conditions and how much food is available on the beaches. Razor clams are filter feeders, which means they suck up nutrient-rich plankton and other plant materials.
“Not every beach is the same, but in general we’re seeing good ocean conditions and I anticipate these clams will grow to about 4 inches in 18 months,” Ayres said. “Obviously a lot of them won’t survive, but even if 10 percent make it through, we’ll be swimming in clams later on.”
Heading into the 2012-13 season, shellfish managers knew razor clam populations had rebounded from a low point the previous year, and are much higher than they’ve been in many seasons.
At Mocrocks just north of Ocean Shores, the clam population is the highest measured, dating 20 years. Populations are also up at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Long Beach.
Last season, 417,400 digger trips yielded a total harvest of more than 6 million clams for an average of 14.4 clams per digger trip (the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is a daily limit).
For comparison, in 2011-12 a total of 194,976 digger trips produced 2.5 million clams for 13.2 per digger average; and in 2010-11, a total of 244,500 produced 3.2 million for 13.1.
Unlike last year, when clams were abundant but small, surveys taken this summer revealed clams will be larger than last year by a half an inch or so.
The most recent razor clam digs Oct. 17-22 generated 32,000 digger trips with 14.9 clams per person.
If you go
The next digs are Friday at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Saturday at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; Nov. 3-4 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Nov. 5 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors; and Nov. 6-8 at Long Beach. Digging is open from noon to midnight each day.
More digs are scheduled Nov. 15-16 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; Nov. 17 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Nov. 18-20 at Long Beach.
Final approval will be announced about a week before.