Shore ways to clam up

Beaches boast bountiful bivalves

Posted: Monday, April 10, 2006


  Razor clams are common on some beaches along Cook Inlet's shores. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Razor clams are common on some beaches along Cook Inlet's shores.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The west coast of the Kenai Peninsula is ground zero for clammers in the summer. The undisputed king of clams is the razor, and these succulent bivalves are delicious to eat and surprisingly easy to harvest.

Getting started is easy. All that’s needed is a bucket, shovel, some good boots and a valid Alaska sportfishing license, which is required to dig clams for anyone 16 years of age or older.

The state’s most popular clam harvest area is at the Clam Gulch State Recreation Area at Mile 117.5 of the Sterling Highway, but any beaches between Ninilchik and Kasilof offer productive clamming.

Make sure you choose a good “minus” tide, because clams are only exposed when the tide is out. Tides of minus two feet or more are recommended for optimum clamming — although clams can be found on any minus tide.

Finding clams can be tricky at first — until you know what to look for. Clams can be found by locating tiny dimples in the sand where the water has gone out to sea.

Once a dimple is located, use a shovel (specialized “clam shovels” are sold in stores, though any scooping device can work) or your hands and begin digging. Clams can usually be found 6 inches beneath the surface.

If using bare hands, be careful. These clams aren’t called razors without reason. They have sharp shells that can cut fingers easily. A good pair of gloves may prevent injury.

Clams are regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and any 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.

Once the digging is done, it’s time for the cleaning to begin. This can be a time-consuming process, and for a first-time clam digger it’s better to err on the conservative side in regard to the number of clams harvested. Some find cleaning more work than they care to do, and it’s better to determine this before large numbers of clams are dug and then potentially wasted.

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

Razor clams aren’t the only bivalves that can be harvested on Kenai Peninsula beaches. Depending on the beach, you can find butter and littleneck (or “steamer”) 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.

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