Bountiful bivalves: Clammers clamor for treats

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2004

The quickest way for an Alaska visitor to get a feel for and a taste of Alaska is to hit the beach on a good clamming tide. You can hobnob with the locals, and for very little money walk away with a tasty treat and a great memory of your trip.

Clamming is an activity that anyone regardless of age or skill can enjoy as long as you can lift a shovel.

So bring the whole family. They will come in handy for hauling the bevy of bivalves you dig up and most importantly to help out when it comes time to clean them.

Nothing beats a day on a wind swept Alaska beach, gazing across the water at the magnificent views. Be sure to come prepared for the weather. Dress in layers, bring warm, tall boots or hip waders, waterproof rain gear, a set of gloves and extra socks for the kids.

As for gear, clamming is relatively inexpensive, all you need is a couple of buckets, a narrow-bladed clam shovel and a fishing license.

If you don't have anyone to help carry buckets, a flat-bottomed sled is great for pulling your treasure along the beach.

State clamming regulations are straightforward. They can be downloaded from the Alas-ka Department of Fish and Game Web site. Here's what they say:

For personal use, there is no closed season. Along the beaches from the mouth of the Kenai River south to the tip of the Homer Spit, you may take 60 razor clams a day and have in your possession up to 120 clams. Everywhere else in Cook Inlet waters there are no limits.

Depending on the beach, you can find razor, butter and littleneck clams.

The bag and possession limit for littleneck clams is 1,000, and the minimum size is 1.5 inches. The bag and possession limit for butter clams is 700, and the minimum size is 2.5 inches. You will need to obtain a free shellfish harvest permit for these. A permit is not required for razor clams.

Be sure to stick to the daily bag limits and remember that every clam you dig up counts, even the smashed ones. Count carefully because there is a $100 fee, plus $2 per razor clam over your limit. Try clamming without a license a you will be fined $200.

A sportfishing license for a resident is $15. Nonresidents can buy a one-day license for $10, a three-day license for $20, seven-day for $30, two-weeks for $50 and a license to clam all year for $100.

According to enforcement officers, the two most common rule violations are digging without a license and exceeding bag limits.

Consult a tide book and your set to go clamming.

Tides can come in fast in Cook Inlet. The best time to clam is during the lowest tides, an hour before to two hours after a low tide.

To find a razor clam, look for the dimple it makes in the sand. The clam usually will be one to two feet down. Position the shovel three or four inches to the seaward side of the dimple and dig straight down. Digging directly above the dimple or prying back on the shovel can smash the clam's fragile shell.

Dig out three or four shovels of sand and then dive in with your hands. Clams use a suction "foot" to dig deeper and can sometimes out-dig you.

Once you have your limit it's time to line up the family, roll up your sleeves and start cleaning. You will need to have a source of running water to make sure you remove all the sand. Nothing will ruin a bowl of chowder faster than to have it full of grit.

First, remove the clam from its shell by cutting the connective muscle. Cut along the shell in order to remove the entire clam, cut all connective tissue from shell. After its removed, cut off the top of the "neck" with a sharp pair of scissors close to the top. Hold on to the clam and use scissors to cut and split both passages of the neck, rinse to remove all sand and matter. Cut out gills and paps, located near the base of the digger, or "foot." Remove the foot from the clam, split the digger down the center so it lays flat for cooking, remove any dark material and rise well.

If you want to freeze the cleaned clam meat, pack it in plastic bags, add a little water and squeeze out the air before sealing.

Clams are excellent source of protein and can be pan-fried, frittered and put in chowder. Keep the cooking time short, however, or you'll find yourself with nature's version of chewing gum.

For more detailed information on digging and cleaning razor clams, pick up a free copy of "Kenai Peninsula Razor Clams" from any Fish and Game office.

The quickest way for an Alaska visitor to get a feel for and a taste of Alaska is to hit the beach on a good clamming tide. You can hobnob with the locals, and for very little money walk away with a tasty treat and a great memory of your trip.

Clamming is an activity that anyone regardless of age or skill can enjoy as long as you can lift a shovel.

So bring the whole family. They will come in handy for hauling the bevy of bivalves you dig up and most importantly to help out when it comes time to clean them.

Nothing beats a day on a wind swept Alaska beach, gazing across the water at the magnificent views. Be sure to come prepared for the weather. Dress in layers, bring warm, tall boots or hip waders, waterproof rain gear, a set of gloves and extra socks for the kids.

As for gear, clamming is relatively inexpensive, all you need is a couple of buckets, a narrow-bladed clam shovel and a fishing license.

If you don't have anyone to help carry buckets, a flat-bottomed sled is great for pulling your treasure along the beach.

State clamming regulations are straightforward. They can be downloaded from the Alas-ka Department of Fish and Game Web site. Here's what they say:

For personal use, there is no closed season. Along the beaches from the mouth of the Kenai River south to the tip of the Homer Spit, you may take 60 razor clams a day and have in your possession up to 120 clams. Everywhere else in Cook Inlet waters there are no limits.

Depending on the beach, you can find razor, butter and littleneck clams.

The bag and possession limit for littleneck clams is 1,000, and the minimum size is 1.5 inches. The bag and possession limit for butter clams is 700, and the minimum size is 2.5 inches. You will need to obtain a free shellfish harvest permit for these. A permit is not required for razor clams.

Be sure to stick to the daily bag limits and remember that every clam you dig up counts, even the smashed ones. Count carefully because there is a $100 fee, plus $2 per razor clam over your limit. Try clamming without a license a you will be fined $200.

A sportfishing license for a resident is $15. Nonresidents can buy a one-day license for $10, a three-day license for $20, seven-day for $30, two-weeks for $50 and a license to clam all year for $100.

According to enforcement officers, the two most common rule violations are digging without a license and exceeding bag limits.

Consult a tide book and your set to go clamming.

Tides can come in fast in Cook Inlet. The best time to clam is during the lowest tides, an hour before to two hours after a low tide.

To find a razor clam, look for the dimple it makes in the sand. The clam usually will be one to two feet down. Position the shovel three or four inches to the seaward side of the dimple and dig straight down. Digging directly above the dimple or prying back on the shovel can smash the clam's fragile shell.

Dig out three or four shovels of sand and then dive in with your hands. Clams use a suction "foot" to dig deeper and can sometimes out-dig you.

Once you have your limit it's time to line up the family, roll up your sleeves and start cleaning. You will need to have a source of running water to make sure you remove all the sand. Nothing will ruin a bowl of chowder faster than to have it full of grit.

First, remove the clam from its shell by cutting the connective muscle. Cut along the shell in order to remove the entire clam, cut all connective tissue from shell. After its removed, cut off the top of the "neck" with a sharp pair of scissors close to the top. Hold on to the clam and use scissors to cut and split both passages of the neck, rinse to remove all sand and matter. Cut out gills and paps, located near the base of the digger, or "foot." Remove the foot from the clam, split the digger down the center so it lays flat for cooking, remove any dark material and rise well.

If you want to freeze the cleaned clam meat, pack it in plastic bags, add a little water and squeeze out the air before sealing.

Clams are excellent source of protein and can be pan-fried, frittered and put in chowder. Keep the cooking time short, however, or you'll find yourself with nature's version of chewing gum.

For more detailed information on digging and cleaning razor clams, pick up a free copy of "Kenai Peninsula Razor Clams" from any Fish and Game office.



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