Razor Clamming on KING 5 TV

David Berger, author of “Razor Clams: Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest,” was featured on “New Day Northwest,” the morning talk show with host Amity Addrisi on KING 5 TV. Wearing waders, he explains to Amity the how to’s of razor clamming, and demonstrates using a tube and shovel. It aired 11 am on Thursday, April 4, 2024. Watch the 7-minute video here.

Winter Night Dig: Don’t Hide the Fire

Arriving at the beach in winter in early evening, for a night-time dig

Rich went to a night dig at Copalis in early February, with his friend Mike and Mike’s kid in second grade. It was a Sunday. They arrived about 4 PM for a 6:30 PM low tide. Rich gave this report:

<<We took the Ocean City beach access road, and drove north up the beach several miles. Mike brought a giant pile of wood in the back of his pick-up, split fir, nice and dry, for a fire. The temp was 40 degrees and it was blowing. It was cold. There were other people and cars on the beach, but it wasn’t crowded. Mike had the bright idea we should be put ourselves on Gaia, a GPS tracking app. That way, we could follow the track back to the car. It can be hard to find the car when night falls, in the blackness of the beach. Like being in a cave.

We started digging right away to catch the light; there were a lot of shows, but the clams were small. I was digging with the shovel, prospecting and pounding the sand near the surf. I started looking for bigger shows, to get bigger clams. Mike and his son each had a tube. So there we are, digging and digging and digging. It’s getting colder, and dark. I had my giant headlamp on. Mike’s stopped working. “Hey” he said, “I paid like $19 for that on Amazon.” Mike and his son together have 7 clams. I want to get my limit. I say, “You have the track back to the car. We’re a little south. Maybe go back to the car?” They think this is a good idea.

I ask, “How will I know where you are when I’m done? Can I call you on the phone?”

“The ringer on my phone doesn’t work,” Mike says.

“How will I know where you are?”

“I’ll light a big fire.”

Big fires are distinctive, so that seemed like a good plan. And off they go.

I’m digging, clams are on the deeper side, and it’s cold, but I finally get my limit.  The clams at the largest are 4 inches. I start back up the beach, looking for a bonfire. Given the amount of wood Mike brought you should see the fire from space. But I don’t see anything. It’s just black. It’s now late. The beach is desolate. At first there’s a big truck with a blinking light, in what I take to be about the right location. But then that’s gone; they have their limit or whatever and have departed. All that’s left is night and darkness.

I continue walking south, thinking, I’ll see him if I just go in a straight line. I’m uneasy.  Where the heck are they? Then I see a tiny spark. Practically a hallucination. I walk in that direction. When I get close I see it’s them. He has started the fire but it’s behind the car. In a pit. I couldn’t see the fire till I was right next to it. I was lucky to find him. I just happened to see some sparks flying up.

“Hey man, the fire is hidden in a pit, behind the car. I had no way of finding you. I just happened on you. What’s the deal?”

“The wind was blowing so much, we had to make this giant pit,” he says.

I warmed up by the fire, and we ate marshmallows, and heated some stew. It’s tough when it’s cold and windy, and dark. And even tougher when your buddy hides the fire in a hole. Always assume the worst with Mike>>

A beach fire is a welcome companion at a night dig


Clams On the Cartoon Page

It’s a dangerous world out there! Best have your tubes, shovels and guns at the ready. This cartoon was published in  The Seattle Times  on February 9, 2023.

BIG CROWD for Last Day of the Truncated 2020-21 Season

Diggers at Roosevelt Beach stretched as far as the eye could see, on Sunday, May 30th, 2021, reflecting pent-up demand after a season curtailed by COVID and domoic acid. Photo credit: Ann Norman


Razor clamming exploded in May 2021 when, after a nearly year-long drought, the popular spring season was opened for a few days  This photo was taken on Sunday, May 30th, on the final day of the brief season. Only the Mocrocks management area was open; no Long Beach, no Copalis, no Twin Harbors.  It was a -1.6 tide with the low at 10:26 AM. The turnout was spectacular: 8,698 diggers. Nearly 9,000 diggers. One of highest counts ever recorded in a single management area.

Why all the demand? First the season was curtailed in 2020 due to COVID, and then the clams tested positive for domoic acid, a neurotoxin that leaves the clams alone but is harmful to humans. It was so disappointing to read week after week that the domoic acid test results were still high and spring digging dates wouldn’t happen. The season remained closed until May 2021, and then  only open at limited beaches. Razor clammers must have their clams, and this was the last day of the season. Hence the big big numbers.

Dept. of Fish & Wildlife did not conduct their usual interviews because of COVID concerns, but saw “countless limits coming up the beach.”  The assumption is everybody dug their limit of 15. So over 130,000 clams harvested.

Traffic was intense. Cars were bumper to bumper. But folks were thrilled to get out and get their clams.



Large Numbers for October “Covid” Dig at Copalis

Lots of folks turned up for a mid-October evening dig at  Copalis Beach

It’s an astounding number. On Saturday night, October 17th, over ten thousand clam diggers folks poured onto the sandy flat beaches of the Copalis management area to dig razor clams. 10,100 intrepid souls to be precise, according to the count by Dept. of Fish & Wildlife.

For this eye-popping number of diggers you can thank the covid-19 pandemic. With the spring 2020 digs cancelled due to covid (local officials didn’t want a bunch of covid-carriers blustering into town) – not too mention the many months of closed movie theaters, gyms, coffee shops, and restaurants – there was pent-up demand for something fun.

And so when the beaches were green-lighted for digging, folks showed up. The clams did their part: they appeared in quantity. Though officials couldn’t interview diggers to assess catch results due to covid, digging was good and they assumed every digger hauled out a limit of 15 clams. So about one million five hundred thousand clams were harvested this one minus-tide day, and a lot of clam chowder and fried clams consumed.

Those who participated made a good decision as just a few weeks later domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxins that doesn’t harm the clams but is dangerous to humans, showed up.  All razor clamming was shut down. Groan. 2020 has indeed been the year of miseries.

Don’t expect the season to open any time soon. Unfortunately, it can take razor clams a long time to rid themselves of domoic acid, sometimes as long as a year.

Beach Access Roads, and Razor Clamming, Closed Due to COVID-19

Access to Pacific Beach via Analyde Gap Road closed due to COVID-19. The beach is just around the corner down a steep incline. All beach access roads in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties were closed March 22 and with it razor clamming. Credit Jamie Garner.

Razor clamming came to a halt in late March 2020 to the great disappointment of many. What, we can’t go razor clamming? It seemed like the perfect antidote to social distancing and being cooped up in the house. The beach, the good salt air, the clams. Just a week before WDFW had said the dig was a go. But then WDFW said nope and cancelled the late March and April digs.

Of course, WDFW also put a halt to all fishing. That had outdoor folk climbing the walls. People were canoeing, motor boating, and paddle boarding. Why couldn’t a fisher throw out a line or go out in a float tube? One explanation was about hazards to WDFW personnel who might be at risk doing regulatory enforcement.

As far as razor clamming, a different explanation was that it wasn’t WDFW precisely, but health authorities in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties with whom WDFW consulted who wanted the digs cancelled; they didn’t want legions of visitors coming to their towns potentially spreading the virus. Indeed, Pacific County ordered its beach access roads closed on March 22. That was the same day Gov. Inslee  required hotels, motels and other hospitality lodgings to close. WDFW had little choice but to follow suit and cancel scheduled digs.

The Seattle Times ran a story about Long Beach and a prevailing attitude of residents:  “Your vacation is not worth our lives. Go home. Stay home. Save lives.”

As of this writing, April 27th, boat ramps are expected to reopen May 5th along with some warm-water fishing, and razor clamming  sometime  thereafter. Here’s hoping there will be some razor clamming in May and maybe even into June. Those are months with favorable morning tides that diggers love.

As Joni Mitchell famously sang, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.







In The Spokesman-Review

Symbols of Washington, from The Spokesman-Review

The Spokesman-Review newspaper of Spokane published a story in 2019 about the effort to make the razor clam the state clam.

<<“Razor clams are very important to our district,” said Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview. They’re part of the draw that brings between 30,000 and 40,000 people each year to the Long Beach peninsula alone.

Jim Franzel, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist who said he has dug clams since 1958, all up and down the Northwest coast, said they draw 400,000 “digger trips” to Washington beaches a year.

There’s one other element that could weigh heavily in favor of naming this state clam if the bill makes it to the Senate floor in the coming days. Lawmakers will be struggling with some contentious budget issues, and may need a chance to insert a bit of levity.

Along with the economic factors, “it’s sure to be a great source of puns.” >>


Full story:

Washington could elevate razor clam to special status

Razor Clams on Parade, 1912

Razor-clam shell costumes worn by the ELKS fraternal organization during their 1912 parade in Portland, Oregon. Pretty snazzy. Image was used on a postcard.

Out of One Cmte and into another…

House Bill 1061, designating the razor clam as the state clam, moved out of the State Governance and Tribal Affairs Committee on Friday February 22nd. It now moves to the Rules Committee, which will hopefully move the bill to a vote in House. Please remember to write your legislators and let them know you support the bill!

New Bill, HB 1061, for the 2019 Legislative Session

A new bill has been prefiled for the upcoming legislative session. The 105-day session begins Jan. 14. If passed, the razor clam, Siliqua patula, would join the ranks of the American goldfish, Walla Walla sweet onion, green darner dragonfly, and the orca as a state symbol.