Another 24 days of razor clam digs proposed for April and May likely will cap a season packed with the most “beach days” in the past 25 years.
Shellfish managers with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to end the season with more than three weeks of digs on morning low tides at various beaches from April 4 through May 17.
Final approval of those digs depends on the results of marine toxin tests, which have consistently shown this season that the clams are safe to eat.
“We’ve had a great season so far and we expect it to continue that way in the months ahead,” coastal shellfish manager Dan Ayres said. “We have an abundance of clams on most beaches, which makes for some terrific digging opportunities.”
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The proposed schedule does not include dig dates in May for Copalis and Mocrocks. Dates for those popular areas, including beaches from Ocean Shores to Pacific Beach, will be announced after harvest from the April digs has been analyzed to see if there are enough clams in the state’s quota to allow more digging.
Kalaloch has been closed all season because of low populations.
Including the dates in April and May, Ayres said the department will have provided 286 “beach days” of digging this season, the highest number since 1989. He defined a “beach day” as one beach open for a single day, so four beaches open for one day counts as four beach days.
Annual razor clam seasons typically end in mid- to late May, when the clams begin to spawn and are less desirable for eating, Ayres said.
Meanwhile, state wildlife managers are asking diggers, and other beach visitors, to avoid disturbing snowy plovers and streaked horned larks. Both species nest in the soft, dry sand at Leadbetter Point at the northern tip of Long Beach Peninsula and on a section of Twin Harbors beach.
The snowy plover is a small bird with gray wings and a white breast. The lark is a small bird with a pale yellow breast and brown back. Male larks have a black mask, breast band and “horns.” Both species are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“Nesting season for snowy plovers and streaked horned larks begins in early April, coinciding with the scheduled clam digs,” said Anthony Novack, district biologist. “Snowy plover nests are difficult to see, so it’s easy to disturb or destroy them without even being aware of it. If an adult is scared off its nest, it leaves the eggs exposed to predators like crows and ravens.”
To protect these birds, the department asks that clam diggers avoid the dunes and areas of the beach with soft, dry sand. When driving to a clamming area, diggers should enter the beach only at designated access points and stay on the hard-packed sand near or below the high tide line, Novack said.
Diggers need a valid 2015-16 fishing license to participate in razor clam digs effective April 1, the beginning of the new license year. Various types of fishing licenses are available at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, by phone at 866-246-9453 and from authorized license dealers throughout the state.
Under state law, diggers are required to keep the first 15 clams they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container. No digging is allowed on any beach after noon.