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Good tidings for early diggers

In April, locals can beat tourist rush at clam beaches

Posted: Monday, April 03, 2006


  A razor clam is harvested from Clam Gulch on Saturday. Several early season clammers hit the beaches this weekend to dig for the mollusks. Photo by Joseph Robertia

A razor clam is harvested from Clam Gulch on Saturday. Several early season clammers hit the beaches this weekend to dig for the mollusks.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

South of Kasilof, it was a classic case of the early bird gets the clam this weekend.

As spring days turn longer and warmer than the one before, icy trails broke open to reveal muddy roads and footpaths leading down Per Osmar’s Way in Calm Gulch.

Down on the black sand beaches a few dozen people decided to dig for mollusks on Saturday.

“This is my favorite time of year to dig for razors,” said Charlie Reynolds of Kasilof, referring to the smooth brown-shelled razor clam.

Reynolds was digging just south of the state’s most popular clam harvest area — the Clam Gulch State Recreation Area at Mile 117.5 of the Sterling Highway. This area saw a series of minus tides at the end of last month and beginning of this month with a minus 4.2-foot low tide Thursday and Friday, a minus 3.3-foot tide Saturday and a minus 1.7-foot tide Sunday.

People were spread out Saturday — the next closest clam digger to Reynolds was a quarter-mile away and Reynolds said that’s the way he likes it.

“That’s why I come now. This is the best time for peninsula folks to enjoy the peninsula, because by May all the Anchorage-ites start coming and by June it’s wall to wall tourists out here digging,” he said.

Diane Sutton of Clam Gulch agreed there was a much to be gained from the muck for those willing to come early.

“Sure, you still got to wear a few layer of clothes. It’s not warm like May or June, but by then a lot of the clam beds have been picked clean. You’ve got to get out early to get the good ones. The big ones,” Sutton said.

Dick Darnell of Soldotna said he enjoys coming for clams early because it makes him feel like winter is finally over.

“After being cooped up all winter, it feels great to get outdoors and do something fun like this. It sets the pace for the whole year. First comes clamming, then before you know it it’ll be time to fish and camp and all the fun stuff of summer,” Darnell said.

Clam Gulch State Recreation Area will experience another series of small minus tides April 13-16 and the next notable minus tides for clamming will be April 25-30, with the peak being a minus 4.8-foot low tide April 28.

Clams are regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and a valid Alaska sportfishing license is required to dig clams for anyone 16 years of age or older.

The first 60 clams dug — including small clams and clams broken during the digging process — must be kept by law, and they still count toward a daily bag limit of 60 clams per person, per day. The total possession limit for razors is 120 clams.

Alaska State Troopers were actively patrolling the beaches over the weekend to ensure these regulations were being followed, and will continue to do so throughout the year.


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