Razor Clamming in November

I grew up in Massachusetts, and my family used to visit Cape Cod in the fall and winter, and stay our friends’ summer home. Strangely enough, no one wanted to rent it in November, so we were set for accommodation and I was set for a lifetime love of beaches in cold and blustery conditions.

So I had a great time last weekend, in rubber boots and rain gear near Seaside on the Oregon coast, wandering around the beach in the dark looking for razor clams. The Pacific Razor Clams we were hunting are the slightly larger cousins of the Atlantic “Razor” or Jacknife Clams  – I think the Atlantic ones look significantly more razor-like.

Razor clamming is supposed to be best at the lowest low tides, which I was under the impression often come near the new moon. Some quick Wiki-research on tides told me even more: the highest highs and lowest lows come just after the new moon and full moon, because those are the times that the sun and earth’s gravitational pulls allign. Those are called the spring tides. The highest lows and lowest highs, which happen at the first and third quarter moons, are called neap tides.

There’s a lot more to it than that, of course, and I’d recommend skimming that Wikipedia article. I’m going to have to read it several more times to start absorbing it all. But in addition to springs and neaps, here’s another fun tidbit from my first reading: there are Earth Tides, too! The moon’s gravity moves the earth’s surface up to a foot on a diurnal pattern. Fascinating.

In any case, we were in search of one of the lowest tides of the month, which is why we got in the car after work and drove to the beach for the 9:40 tide. My friends were more experienced clammers, so they picked the spot, brought the short, narrow clam shovels and advised me to dress warmly and bring a good headlamp, which I did.

We took a wonderful walk along the beach near the water, looking for the little bubbles in the sand that would send us furiously digging,and thumping the ground with our shovels to try to encourage any sky clams to announce their presence. For those of you interested in expert instruction, check out the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s flyer on clam digging. 

I used to find razor clam shells on the beach on Cape Cod, and that was all we found on Friday night. Not even a sign of a clam to go digging after. I had a wonderful time wandering the beach in the dark, nonetheless. It wasn’t that cold, though somewhat rainy, and when we were ready to head back to the car I even took off my rubber boots. I did some wading and then enjoyed getting sandy feet on the walk back up to the parking lot.

Though I did have a great time, I’ll admit I wouldn’t mind catching some clams next time. We’ve got plans to go again in December, perhaps to a beach in Washington that one of my friends has had good luck at before. The one previous time I’ve prepared razor clams with friends, (if you’re wondering what that takes, you can watch this video, which is on a blog that looks very much in the same spirit as mine) we breaded them in saltines and fried them, but the next time I get a chance, I’m thinking about clam chowder.


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