An Outdoor View: Killing April

Posted: Friday, April 08, 2011

If I were asked to pick a favorite month for being in Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula, it wouldn't be April. It's so seldom that you hear anyone praising the pleasures of slush, breakup and cabin fever.

On the other hand, April isn't all bad. Clamming this early in the year is not for the faint at heart, but a good series of clam tides occurs in April. At Deep Creek on April 19 at 10:58 a.m., the tide will be a -5.3, among the year's lowest.

On the Kenai Peninsula, most razor clam digging happens on the 50 miles of beaches between the Kasilof and Anchor rivers. In November 2010, in a 7-mile-long stretch of beach north and south of Deep Creek, tens of thousands of razor clams died when they apparently were scoured from the sand and rolled up on the gravel by storm-driven waves. It remains to be seen how many survived in this stretch. You'll likely find places where they'll be scarce.

The Department of Fish and Game has a free brochure, "Cook Inlet Razor Clams," which explains everything you need to know about razor clams, including how to clean them. The daily bag limit is 60, and the possession limit is 120. Because razor clam shells are so fragile, you're required to harvest every one you dig, regardless of size. Be careful not to dig more than you want to clean.

If you have a seaworthy boat, it can be rewarding to run from Homer to the other side of Kachemak Bay, where butter clams can be found on any minus tide. Watch the weather, as the wind usually increases as the day progresses. Kachemak Bay is seldom calm in the afternoon. The daily bag limit and possession limit for butter clams is 700, which must be 2 1/2 inches or wider.

Early-season clamming invariably brings out law-enforcement officers, so don't dig more than your limit, and have a current Alaska sport fishing license or Permanent Identification Card (PID). You can pick up a free copy of the 2011 Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary at local license vendors or at any Fish and Game office.

Toward the end of April, odds improve for halibut fishing. There are more hours of daylight, the tidal currents are favorable and -- hopefully -- the weather will be warmer. Rockfish and king salmon also can be found in Cook Inlet and North Gulf Coast waters in April.

I should mention that early-season clamming and fishing can be uncomfortable. With a cold wind blowing on Cook Inlet, searching for dimples in the sand or trolling for king salmon gets old quick. That said, you just might luck into a day when the air is warm and calm, and when you come home with the makings of a fresh seafood feast. Either way, you'll be outdoors, killing time until May.

Les Palmer lives in Sterling.

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