By Anne Erickson | Photos and video courtesy of Experience Westport
The holy grail of do-it-yourself seafood foraging is the razor clam! Any time there’s a razor clam dig on Washington’s coast, thousands of people arm themselves with narrow bladed shovels and clam guns and head westward to chase the tide out and get their clam on. They’ll dig night or day, rain or shine. You’ll see clammers hunched over studying the sand, tapping on it with shovel handles to scare up a ‘show’ and sometimes buried up to their shoulder in a clam hole as a wave breaks over them from behind. It’s a lot of work, and razor clam meat is delicious. But here’s a secret – getting these clams is more fun than eating them. There’s something about being on the edge of the continent, under a wet sky, working side by side in the surf with fellow human beings, all for a damn clam. It’s just so wholesome.
Dress code is anything goes as long as it keeps you dry. Waders. Garbage bags (no lie). Neoprene wetsuits (really no lie, I saw a guy wearing one during a dig at Westport and thought it was genius). Rubber rain pants over long boots. Do not tuck pants into boots. It’s a rookie mistake. Flannel shirts because it’s easy to slide the sleeves up when you plunge your arm into the wet sandy hole you just dug. Baseball caps for keeping rain off the face and headlamps aloft. Also, wrap a belt or bungie cord around your waist to hang a net to hold your clams because using a bucket is another rookie mistake: buckets can be knocked over by waves and your bounty will be washed out to sea. You work so hard for these clams you wear them. Proudly.
Keep an eye on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website in late August when they announce dig dates. Hotels and campgrounds fill up with happy clammers on those days once they’re revealed. Buy or borrow a clam tube, also called a clam gun (easier) or a razor clam shovel (harder but instant clamming cred if you know how to use it) and study up on how to find and capture these fast-moving clams. But mainly, come for the party. Dig days on the coast are low key festive – lights illuminating down the beach compete with the stars on clear nights. Daylight digs are good for beginners, but digs in the dark are just plain magic: lantern glow reflected in the wet sand for miles, the moon shining above and all manner of folks engaged in the simple and satisfying act of pulling their own food from the sea.