MONTESANO, Wash. — Razor clam digging draws hundreds of thousands of people to Washington's coast every year. But in March this year, it was shut down, like everything else, because of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Good news - clamming is back. And it's better than ever according to Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“All summer long we've been looking at these stupendous populations saying 'Oh Brother!'” said Ayers.
The season re-opened on Sept. 16th with an unprecedented 39 days of digs scheduled for the rest of 2020. That schedule is subject to change based on marine toxin levels, but it’s still an impressive number.
"We're sitting on very strong populations of razor clams, and that's why we're able to offer so many days of digging, way more than usual. And in some cases, these are record populations,” said Ayres.
Which means a lot of folks are getting their 15-clam limit:
“Yeah, so we had lots of happy clam diggers out. We had over 15,0000 people out digging razor clams on the Washington Coast Saturday morning all by itself, that's pretty exciting.”
That big number reflects the season opener, but Ayres predicts that crowds will thin in the future, especially with the added dates. All the better to help with something new WDFW is advocating this season: Distanced digging.
“We have depended really closely on our county health agencies both in Pacific and Grays Harbor county, to help formulate advice for folks, and one of the things was social distance - and it's pretty easy to do that razor clamming,” said Ayres.
WDFW’s website has a list of recommendations for staying healthy and preventing the spread of COVID to coastal communities while enjoying razor clamming. Many of them are familiar to all of us, but some are clamming specific, such as:
-Get your license before you leave. This helps prevent long lines and crowding at the small stores that sell licenses on the coast.
-Use a card instead of cash when dining out and buying supplies.
-Respect local rules. Be considerate of masking regulations, and other COVID prevention guidelines being followed in coastal communities.
“All the stuff we’ve been doing anyway, just keep doing it,” said Ayres. “And protect those communities, and we're going to have a great season if we do.”