Clamming the Oregon Coast is a challenging, yet relaxing activity....delicious, too! If you are a clam lover, these fresh mollusks make for some tasty dishes. You will find them in abundance in the many seafood shops and restaurants up and down the coast. They are definitely one of the most popular treats.
I don't remember the first time that I ate one, but I remember enjoying the flavor of these weird-looking little creatures. I now eat them just about any way that I can get them. One of my favorite restaurants is the Old Spaghetti Factory. They have this scrumptious clam sauce that is to die for. If you ever get the chance, give it a try. Steamers, fresh chowder, fried, linguini in a clam sauce......Mmmm ;) I love them all. Many people are a fan of the oyster, but not me. I'll take it's close cousin anytime.
Clamming is not as detailed as crabbing, but can be equally, if not more, of a challenge. You will also need a shellfish license if you are 14-years or older (except on Free Fishing Weekend). There are various regulations you need to follow and different types of licensing you can choose from. For exact licensing costs, regulations and limits, you can get hold of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at 541-867-4741 or you can buy a license right from their web site.
The Clam Watch web site is a great place to obtain the latest clam and crab fishing information on the Oregon coast. It's definitely worth a bookmark.
The method of hunting and catching these bivalves is pretty easy to do, though actually getting hold of the little buggers can be another story altogether. You need to be fast! The tools of the trade are some boots, a bucket and a specialty shovel (which is elongated with a slightly curved head). These shovels are available in most coastal hardware and sporting goods stores. Personally, I would recommend some type of net device that attaches around your waist rather than a bucket. Be creative. You'll want to have both hands free and you definitely won't want to take the chance of the surf sweeping your bucket out to sea.
Now, if you're a beginner or are looking to get your children digging, the best clams to go after are called "Littlenecks." These West Coast answer to steamers can easily be hunted a few inches below the surface of the sand and harvested with a garden cultivator.
Another option, especially good for beginners, is to use a clam gun. Click for more information.
Hitting the beach at a minus-tide (pick up an Oregon coast tide tables book from a local merchant) for Oregon coast clamming is going to provide the best time of day for your hunt. Go about an hour before low tide. What you need to do is search out on the mudflats for small holes in the sand that range from a half to a full inch in diameter. Stick your finger in it and if you feel a neck move away from you very quickly, you're a big winner! Quickly dig a hole and catch him before he burrows away into the sand. Not too hard in theory, huh? For details on how to catch them with your gun or shovel, click here.
Another great tip that I discovered is to take a few ½" dowels with you. You use a dowel to mark a spot where you find a clam. Find one, leave a dowel and so on. Once you have your dowels placed, start digging on the "ocean side" and put your shovel in just below where the end of the dowel hits the shell. Some have found that this a more efficient way of digging for them. Place all your dowels and then go back and dig them up. When you dig, be careful not to break any of the shells.
Here are some additional tips and techniques to help you out.
Every summer, on the central Oregon coast, there are FREE clamming clinics that you can attend. More information can be found on the Oregon Coast Events page.
When preparing to cook your tasty catches, make sure that they are cleaned correctly to avoid any "nasty extras" with your meal.
Here are some clamming hunting areas along the Oregon Coast:
** IMPORTANT NOTE **
For up-to-date information about shellfish hunting conditions, click through to the the state's website.
Have fun and good luck!