Clamming Humboldt Bay
By Casey Allen
Governed by the gravitational pull of the moon the tides are the rhythmic heartbeat of the sea. Twice each day the mud flats of Humboldt Bay are exposed by the low tide. A few days each month the low tides are at their lowest and are called minus tides. It is during these minus tides that people search the seldom exposed mud flats for food among a large variety of clams. This activity has occurred since the beginning of human history and continues to be popular today.
Today the tides are predictable and a quick look at a tide book will reveal the hour the tide is low. It will also tell how low the tide will be with zero being the mean or average low tide. Humboldt Bay’s lowest tides measure around minus 1.8 which is almost two feet lower than normal. Clams may be dug on any low tide but the lowest tide provides access to more and larger clams and also gives the clammer a little more time before the tide turns and ends the digging.
There are places on Humboldt Bay where you can walk to productive mud flats but a boat is needed to reach the best spots. As with any type of fishing the places hardest to get to usually produce the best because there are fewer people. From the boat ramp at Fields Landing you can easily see where people are clamming. It is perfectly okay to join them or go looking for a secret spot of your own. Clams are not hard to find. Their siphon tube stretches to the surface of the mud and occasionally squirts water into the air. At times whole colonies are squirting at once and at the very least their siphon holes dot the mud flat. Most people feel the bigger the siphon hole the bigger the clam and some can tell the species of clam by the shape of the hole.
Humboldt Bay is home to the Pacific Gaper Clam commonly known as horse necks. They cannot retract their siphon and completely close their shell which gives them the name gaper. They can be found from one to four feet deep. Butter Clams also called Washington or Martha Washington clams are common. They can retract their siphon, have a smooth shell, and live shallower than the horse neck. Pacific little neck clams and cockles have serrated edges on their shell and are the smallest of the group, sometimes called steamer clams. They live just under the surface and can be taken with a rake. The largest clam in Humboldt Bay is the Geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck). This gaper clam can grow to a whopping eight pounds and live 168 years. Its name comes from a Native American word that means dig deep.
Gene Morris and I launched my 12 foot johnboat at the Fields Landing boat ramp the morning of the first low tide in March. I wanted to try for razor clams on Clam Beach near Mckinleyville but the tide was only a minus .7 and the surf was predicted to be too rough. We motored north in the sheltered channel of the South Bay and turned the corner to the west side of the big mud flat. There were two other boats already there and people were scattered digging in the mud.
Gene was excited to be clamming again. He lost part of his foot to a blood clot and that restricted his mobility. He planned to dig from the bow of the johnboat. I slid the boat onto the mud and the clams were squirting right and left. I was wearing chest waders and a rain jacket with neoprene gloves duct taped to the sleeves. I walked a few paces away from the boat and started digging on a likely looking siphon hole. In a few minutes I started pulling clams from the mud. I found that trenching worked well. Once I got to the depth of the clams it was easier to dig sideways than down on top of them and I broke fewer shells. Gene had spread a tarp in front of the boat and was busy digging with a nice pile of horse necks filling his bucket. I noticed the other clammers were searching for just the right place to dig and I thought they must be after a specific clam. We were after quantity for a big pot of chowder and there were plenty of clams right in front of us.
I don’t know how much time passed, you can get lost in your digging, but Gene called, “the boat is floating away.” On our way out Gene told a story about a guy who had to swim for his boat and I told Gene I brought a line and anchor to keep the boat where we put it. But then I neglected to deploy it. An unexpected surge must have lifted the boat enough to float it clear of the mud and as I looked past Gene I could see it gaining speed in the morning breeze. I took off running across the mud as fast as I could without falling. My boat was at the edge of the floating eel grass that marks the deep water of the channel and I wondered if I could reach it in time. I plowed into the water and realized it would be close and then realized I was committed. With my last step still touching the bottom I dove outstretched reaching for the boat. I grabbed the side with both hands and with strength only available in such situations I pulled myself over the gunnels and into the boat. Then I realized another thing I had neglected to do. I did not strap up my chest waders or zip up my rain jacket. If I had I would not be near as wet as I now was. Of course, I should have put the anchor out.
The motor started on the first pull and moments later I pulled the boat back next to Gene and put the anchor out. I was shaken that I let that happen and thought if I was one step slower we would be begging for help. Thankfully, Gene went back to digging so I did too.
We ended with about 75 clams, well short of our limit of 50 each but more than enough for our planned chowder feed. We removed the clams from the shell and slit open the siphon tube before soaking them in cold fresh water overnight. The next day the skin on the siphon tube was easily removed and all except the guts went into the pot. I was sore all over from the unusual muscle activity and still sore at myself over not placing the anchor. But we had a good time, collected some good food, and have another story to tell.
Fishing ReportsTopaz producing ‘money trout' for anglers
03/07/14 -- Carilyn Albin, manager of the Topaz Lodge and Casino General Store and weighmaster for the Topaz Trout Derby, reports anglers are still catching tagged fish that qualify for money, $100 for a 2 lb. plus tagged fish...Full Story
Anglers urged to return fish tags
Humboldt Bay: Busy port, excellent fishery
Rain and rising rivers rein in anglers
03/05/14 -- Options may be limited for the next four to five days for North Coast steelhead fishermen as the rivers, as well as the weather, remains unsettled. From the Chetco down to the South Fork Eel, every coastal...Full Story
Why leave Redding for 'steel'?
03/05/14 -- Our rain dance has finally come to fruition. The rivers have come up and colored, "steel" have churned into the outlets and fishermen have flocked westward to satisfy their appetites. But is going...Full Story
PG&E to increase flows on Pit River 03/05/14 -- Recreationists are being advised to use extra caution during increased flows below Lake Britton from March 16 to May 9. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) will increase flows on the Pit... Full Story
03/04/14 -- Reprinted with permission of HASA (Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers) – Light is one of the most important factors to consider when fishing deep water. Over the years while fishing for Pacific halibut, we have always... Full Story
PFMC Meeting 03/04/14 -- The Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and its advisory bodies will meet March 7‐13, 2014 in Sacramento, California to address issues related to salmon, Pacific halibut, groundfish...Full Story
Pulled into the pipes: Green Sturgeon
03/04/14 -- [Posted with permission of FISHBIO] Living in the Sacramento River can be a risky business for juvenile green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris). The young fish must swim through a gauntlet of water... Full Story
Middle Rogue fishing much better By Frank Galusha
03/03/14 -- Fishing is picking up on Rogue River according to Troy Whittaker of Troy’s Guide Service and the U-Save Gas, Bait and Tackle Store in Grants Pass. “Best baits are yarn balls soaked in Pautzke’s Nectar... Full Story
Collins delivers limits of bass and trout
03/02/14 -- We saw some serious limits of trout and bass this past week! The Auburn Bassmasters brought up 10 boats for their tournament and everyone limited out on bass, and most caught and released all day long... Full Story
Kids Fishing Days coming to North State
Lake Oroville; fishing good By Chuck Giles
02/28//14 -- Lake Oroville is, today, 188 feet below full pool. In spite of this dreadful news, my last report from bass guide Ron Gandolfi says fishing is good. “We are getting many two pound bass, some three pounders and... Full Story
Klamath adult salmon numbers down!
02/27/14 -- It was inevitable. After two “out of this world” salmon seasons for the coastal waters off of Eureka and Crescent City -- as well as the Klamath River -- the numbers had nowhere to go but down. And that seems to be where...Full Story
Drought imperils future Sac Salmon seasons
02/27/14 -- Fishery officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are forecasting over 634,000 adult fall run Sacramento salmon are swimming off the coast now, according to the Golden Gate Salmon Association... Full Story
The status of Steelhead
02/25/14 -- Every juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) living in California's Central Valley has in its genetic makeup the ability to out-migrate to the Pacific Ocean and become a steelhead trout. Historically, this ability has... Full Story
How to be bass ready, 'Weather' or not
Collins Lake: Perfect for trout anglers
02/22/14 -- With a fully functional boat ramp and 14 more feet water in the lake, fishing is peaking early this year due to incredible weather! With outside temperatures running in the high 60’s it is quite pleasant to be on the lake...Full Story
Emergency regs have closed some rivers 02/21/14 -- The California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) this week approved emergency regulations adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission on Feb. 5 to close some waters to angling in response to severe...Full Story
Ice fishing workshop set for Diamond Lake 2/20/14 -- ODFW will show anglers how to make the best of snowy, icy conditions at a March 8 Family Ice Fishing Workshop on Diamond Lake. According to Mark Newell, ODFW outdoor skills coordinator, ice fishing can be...Full Story
5 lb. 12.8 oz. redear sunfish is largest ever
Should boaters buy an extended warranty?
Kokanee Power 2014 Event Schedule By Gary Heffley
02/15/14 -- Kokanee Power, a great organization involved with education, research, support and promotion of the fantastic Kokanee and Inland Chinook fisheries in the state has posted their 2014 calendar of tournaments and... Full Story
Not Just Any Fish
02/14/13 -- Trout have inhabited California waters from the Sierra Nevada and Warner Mountains to the Pacific Ocean since prehistoric times. However, most of the trout caught by anglers are either hatchery raised fish...Full Story
Oregon angler tags could win prizes 02/12/14 -- Oregon anglers who turn in their 2013 combined angling tag and/or hatchery harvest tag before May 16, 2014 could win one of over 100 outdoor products or gift cards from Bi-Mart. ODFW is sponsoring the promotion...Full Story
New Bait Buttons target big fish By Gary Heffley
02/10/14 -- It looks like the rains have finally arrived and with the flush of fresh water runoff hitting the delta and the complex of bays running out through the Golden Gate, sturgeon fishing should be on the definite upswing...Full Story
Fish Fry Lake: Cycling nutrients into fish
02/06/14 -- [Abstract: The following article describes why cyanobacteria (a form of algae) and green algae (another form of algae) occur when they do. Their occurence very much relates to the nutrient ratio present in a waterway...Full Story
F&GC closes angling on some rivers 02/06/14 -- Taking swift action in response to severe drought conditions throughout the state, the California Fish and Game Commission today adopted emergency regulations to close some waters to angling as recommended by...Full Story
Mt. Shasta Kid’s Fishing Days start June 7 By Gary Heffley
02/05/14—The days are set for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife 2014 Kid’s Fishing Day at Mt. Shasta Fish Hatchery. This free annual event is one of my personal favorites and one that I make every effort...Full Story
Fish numbers in S.F. Bay Delta remain low
02/03/15 -- February 2, World Wetlands Day, is a chance to raise awareness about the importance and value of wetlands. Unfortunately, the results from the 2013 California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW... Full Story
Can you top FPT's 'Sweet 16' Picks?
02/01/14 -- It’s February…which means the Coors Light Future Pro Tour Classic Championship is just around the corner (March 7th-9th). This event poised to be one of the most exciting and spectacular events in the FPT’s...Full Story
Fishing with Phideaux
01/26/14 -- Meet Phideaux, a 110-pound neurotic chocolate Lab. His name is pronounced “Fido” but it is spelled “Phideaux” because he is a Cajun dog. Anyway, last summer Phideaux took his human (that’s me) on a trout hunt up into...Full Story
Extreme drought by the numbers
01/21/14 -- As a slew of recent headlines suggests, the water supply outlook for the San Joaquin Valley and the rest of California does not look good for 2014. In light of our lack of precipitation, snowpack, and water storage...Full Story
I wish I had a photo By Frank Galusha
01/13/14 -- One of my earliest outdoor experiences is a faint image but since most anglers back then didn’t carry a Brownie Box Camera let alone a smart phone, I’ll have to paint some word pictures. A picture being worth...Full Story
Oregon’s Lost Creek Lake is open all winter
01/11/14 – Many outdoor enthusiasts may not be aware that Lost Creek Lake, Marina & Café near Trail, Oregon is open year ‘round. Not only is it the best bet for winter fishing and boating, but it may be the only game in town at times...Full Story
Eagle Lake: 14 feet lower than her prime
01/07/14 -- Finally, the fishing season at Eagle Lake has ended but the lake doesn’t stop being the lake just because we can’t fish her. She does her own thing this time of year. Ice comes and goes in the depths and some of it...Full Story
Salmon advocates offer bold rebuilding plan
01/02/14 -- Despite an incredibly good salmon sports fishing season off the coast of California last summer and an excellent return of nearly 100,000 fall-run fish to Battle Creek on the Sacramento River this fall...Full Story
Sturgeon tagging requirements changed
Bechhold Bait Holder is fish-catching marvel
12/23/13 -- Hello, my name is Larry Ellis, and I have enjoyed the life of being a writer/photographer for numerous outdoors magazines for over a decade. I am truly living the dream. I began writing for Oregon Fishing & Hunting News...Full Story
Time for a move? Pursuing Pacific Halibut
12/04/13 -- We have all been there. Your lines are out. Hopes are high... but nothing is happening. Should you try a different color squid? A little shallower? Deeper? Further north? Further south? Fresher bait? Stay on this...Full Story
Boneless trout fillets for frying or smoking
11/18/13 -- How many of us have heard, "I don't like trout! They are too bony?" I have not only heard that I was guilty of saying it myself once upon a time! That need not be the case if you follow my method of filleting trout completely boneless...Full Story
New protections set for Clear Lake Hitch 04/16/13 -- The Clear Lake hitch (Lavinia exilicauda chi), which is endemic to Clear Lake in Lake County, is now a candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The California Fish and Game Commission... Full Story
A primer on fishing Lake Shasta By Gary Heffley
01/01/12 -- Shasta Lake draws more visitors to Shasta County than any other single attraction. While it is often a challenge to fish, it is more likely to produce stringers of fat trout or spotted bass. Trout to four and five pounds are caught here routinely...Full Story
Lake Oroville; 'tis the season By Chuck Giles
01/11/12 – Lake Oroville is probably one of the best lakes for sheer numbers of Spotted Bass in Northern California. This is not just on a seasonal basis, but year round. To start, I have a list of baits that produce decent results... Full Story