One of the benefits of living in the Pacific Northwest is our wide selections of seafood. Considered to be one of the quintessential Pacific Northwest activities, clam digging is a fun, cheap and family-friendly event that will provide delicious meals and incredible memories.
Along the Washington Coast, the clam digging season is upon us! The common belief here is that the best quality shellfish can be consumed, especially oysters, in months with the letter “R.” So we can help ourselves to all the oysters, mussels, and clams we can eat from September through April, but put the brakes on come May/June depending on the season. Be sure to check out the latest Puget Sound clam, mussel, and oyster season guide.
Day passes and annual permits can be purchased at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife or the nearby Fred Meyer. Each person digging must have their own container for collecting shellfish and their own permit. The daily personal limit for all marine clams is up to 40. We usually have a good 10 people clamming, so you can imagine we get a good 400 clams per trip. Don’t skip out on the license, there will be rangers during busy season to catch you. If you get caught without a license, or you catch more than the limit, you can still bring them home but they will charge you a hefty $5 per clam! Be honest, you get them for free anyway.
For manila clams, we usually would go to Hood Canal or North Bay. Get your Discover Pass and grab your gears (see our list below). While many clam diggers have their favorite beach, the most important thing is to ensure that the beach you are planning to go to is open for clamming that day. Before heading out, it is also important to check the time of the upcoming tides. Know how low the tide is. It can affect your clamming success. Arriving about an hour before the lowest tide will give you the most time.
The key to a successful clam dig is to start digging before the low tide hits and you can follow the tide out. You will notice the manila clams will be covered in the mud and you simply just need to start busting out your tools and start raking to find the manila clam rich area. Once you find a dozen of clams raking through the mud, that’s pretty much your jackpot clam bed. Before you put them in your bucket, by WA law, you need to make sure these guys are at least inch and a half across.
The best part for these clam digging activities is that you can enjoy your hardwork and cook them up at the end of the day. Put all your beautful looking clams you gather in a 48-qt cooler with clean ocean water and pour a couple cups of cornmeal in. This is a very important part of the process to keep the clams alive and allow them to spit the sand out on your way home. Once you get home, use metal scrubber to scrub them through one by one!
We tend to do both Chinese and Italian style. With 400 clams, you can get creative! Chinese with garlic, ginger, black beans sauce, chili peppers and bell peppers. Italian with butter, garlic, parsley, white wine and lemon juice. Discard any clams that do not open.
It’s a lot of hard work but the clam feast with fresh, huge and delicious clams can be an incredible experience. So worth it!
Seattle-based world traveler living my best life!! I am passionate about seeing the world and experiencing different cultures. Strongly believe the best adventures come from traveling outside of your comfort zone. Follow along this humbling journey of mine that I am very proud of.
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