Oregon’s springtime super low tides are the best because that’s a time when the dinner table is set.
Mitch Vance, Shellfish Biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that any of the really good low tides during daylight hours provide ample opportunities to harvest Oregon’s varied bay clam species.
“Some folks like to get out as early as possible and have more digging opportunity; they follow that tide as it goes out, looking for new exposed areas and then work back as the tide turns to flood.”
Norm and Bonnie Clow recently traveled to Tillamook Bay from their home in Dayton, Oregon.
They were among the first early risers to explore the exposed sand and gravel bars on a sunrise clamming adventure.
The Clow’s have been digging their dinner on the bay for more than sixty years and said the 4a.m. wake up call was “no big deal!”
Best advice for the novice clam digger?
“Keep digging,” Clow said with a chuckle. “Usually, the clams are thick enough that if you dig one hole and excavate out, you will have little problem harvesting a limit.”
April, May and June each provide many super low minus tides that occur early in the morning.
This is the favored time for digging bay clams with names like horsenecks, quahogs, steamers and cockles.
Jeff Folkema, alocal guide and the owner of Garibaldi Marina, showed off a half dozen of the prized horseneck clams that he harvested from the bay.
He said they are called “gaper” clams because of the “gape” in the shell where the neck pokes through.
“This is a nice size,” he said while handling a hefty 2-3 pound grapefruit-sized bivalve. “This is pretty average size with a lot of meat. A good sized clam but I have seen much bigger too.”
Jeff added that clam diggers 14 years and older are required to purchase an Oregon Shellfish License.
“And remember that each person who is harvesting clams must have their own container – a bucket or a clam net on their belt – even a plastic bread bag will do – because you cannot lump other people’s clams into your container – you’ll get a ticket for that.”
Keep your eyes open for ODFW placard that show pictures of the different clams species along with the harvest limits and other regulations.
Vance offered: “If you’re digging it really helps to know what you’re after so you can understand the regulations around that species.”
He added that abundant food, reliable cold, clean water contribute to perfect habitat for bay clams populations in most of Oregon’s coastal estuaries.
There is also a delicious reward for the clam digger’s efforts – bay clams can be delicious according to local resident Don Best who showed off his limit of quahog clams.
One of his all time favorite recipes is an old-fashioned clam fritter:
“All it takes is a little cracker crumb, flour and egg – perhaps some chopped onion. Chop up the clams, mix them with the batter and fry them in a skillet with oil. They are awesome that way!”
Vance added that in addition to supper from the sea, digging bay clams can provide hours of family fun for each member of the family: “Oh, it is really good for families because it’s so easy and there’s not a lot of gear – just a shovel or a rake – so get the kids in some boots and get them out here and have some fun in the sand.”
Don Best’s Clam Frittter Recipe
Makes 15 to 18 fritters
1 cup unsifted flour and a half cup of bread crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups chopped clams
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
In deep fat fryer or large heavy skillet, heat oil to 375 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In medium mixing bowl, beat egg, milk, 1/4 cup reserved clam liquid and 1 tablespoon oil.
Stir in dry ingredients and clams. Drop mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls into hot oil.
Fry until golden on all sides. Drain on paper towels.