TILLAMOOK -- Clam diggers gather handfuls of “horseneck, quahog and steamer” clams each morning during the frequent springtime minus low tides at Netarts Bay just south of Tillamook.
It’s a time of year when Oregon bay clamming couldn’t be better.
But at Netarts Bay, Sgt Todd Hoodenpyl of the Oregon State Police said that his officers have their hands full enforcing shellfish law.
Hoodenpyl said that officers must watch Netarts Bay very closely, especially on weekends when up to five hundred visitors swarm across the tide flats.
“Netarts Bay is probably the biggest violation area in our patrol area. It’s the ease of getting out to the clam beds and so the clams are accessible on almost every low tide and that makes it easy for folks to clam and get a limit.”
KGW cameras were rolling as officers stopped and cited a man they caught dumping extra clams into the bay – the man was over his daily harvest limit and so he received a citation.
Officers were quick to note that most recreational clammers play by the rules, but when greed takes over, many do not and some people just don’t read the rules.
The rules are hard to miss – OSP and Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife have teamed up with a local group of volunteers to post huge information signs with all of the rules and regulations printed in four different languages – plus color photos of the varied shellfish species.
Up to 25 local resident volunteers patrol the beaches and the roadways and act as guides to help newcomers learn the rules too.
Still, the violations persist and so the game cops have gone undercover to watch for poor behavior.
Officers watched one group dig and then “highgrade” their clams. That is, they sorted through the clams and selected the biggest clams to keep and discarded the rest. They left the “extras ‘behind on the beach or fed them to the gulls.
OSP officer Roger Reid said that was a waste of the resource.
“When the clams are dug up – whether they have a broken shell or not – but especially when they’re broken, they do not survive back in the sand. It’s simply not good for the resource.”
Eventually, the officers recovered nearly 60 extra clams left behind by the group – many of the clams had broken shells.
When Officer Reid contacted the first adult member of the party, she denied any wrongdoing.
But Reid was quick to point out: “There were three troopers watching you – undercover.”
Eventually, the entire party admitted they didn’t know the rules.
The man who led the group apologized for their mistakes that netted them two citations of $200 each. Turns out his vehicle was parked right in front of signs about shellfish rules. He admitted being irresponsible.
Officers said they will continue their undercover enforcement, keep close watch to make sure everyone’s honest and baby-sit the clams at Netarts Bay.