Razor clams -- A North Coast tradition
Fishing the North Coast Kenny Priest
6/8/11 -- Digging razor clams has been a deep-rooted tradition on the North Coast for generations. Not only are they delicious, it is a true family sport that can be enjoyed by the young and old alike. All that’s required is a clam shovel or clam tube, a sack to hold your clams, and a fishing license. Living in Humboldt County, we are extremely fortunate to have two of the best beaches in all of California, Clam Beach and South Beach in Crescent City.
My first experience at clam digging was a couple years ago on South Beach in Crescent City. I didn’t have a real good idea of what I was doing and only dug a couple clams. That day left a sour taste in my mouth and I wanted to give it another shot to see if I had what it takes. When John Corbett of Eureka’s Pacific Outfitters invited me to go with him to Clam Beach last Thursday, I jumped at the chance. We arrived at the beach at 6 a.m., about a half hour before low tide, and changed into our boots and waders and made the hike to the water. After reading and writing about all the fantastic clamming we’ve had this year, I envisioned a beach that would be elbow to elbow. But that wasn’t the case. On this day, there were maybe 100 other diggers spread from Strawberry Creek north to Little River. There was plenty of room for everyone to spread out, which was not the case on my first trip out of Crescent City. Once we waded out to one of John’s favorite sandbars, he gave me a quick refresher course on what to look for, and then it was off to the races.
John Corbett shows off a couple nice razor clams he dug last Thursday at Clam Beach. This has been one of the better years in recent memory for digging razor clams. The next set of fishable minus tides begins June 14th. Photo by the author.
Just about every fifth tap produced hole or dimple in the sand, which is an indicator that a clam has withdrawn its neck and started to dig. Within 30 minutes, we each had our limit of 20 clams. It’s truly a great day when you can dig and clean 20 clams and still be on time to work.
Clam digging made simple
While tapping the handle end of your shovel, look for a “clam show” where a clam has withdrawn its neck or started to dig, leaving a hole or dimple in the sand. There are three major kinds of “shows” to look for:
1. Dimple: a depression in the sand
2. Doughnut: depression with raised sides
3. Keyhole: this is usually in drier sand areas and is shaped like an “hour-glass” or is a hole with very distinct sides.
It’s best to look for the larger sized holes, which are about the size of a quarter. This sometimes indicates the clam will be larger, but not always. Clams will also show at the edge of the surf line when you pound the beach with a shovel handle or your feet. You’ll need to dig fast when digging in the surf as razor clams dig faster in the soft, wet sand.
Clams and Redtails
John Corbett reports the clamming continues to be red hot at Clam Beach. “If you haven’t made it out yet, I highly recommend you take advantage of the excellent clamming we’ve had this year,” Corbett said. The next round of fishable minus tides will begin June 14th. Corbett also reports that last weeks calm ocean allowed the redtail perch anglers to hit their favorite beaches, and the bite was on. “One of the top spots was the mouth of the Eel, where I heard the fishing was excellent and the size of the perch has improved dramatically, with lots of jumbos caught,” Corbett added.
Wind keeping boats home, weekend looks better
Marine forecast: The old north wind has been blowing since Tuesday, but the weekend ocean forecast is starting to look better. On Saturday, the wind will be coming out of the north to 14 knots with a mixed swell to NW to 6 feet and W 1 foot. Wind waves will be 1 to 3 feet. Sunday’s forecast is calling for wind out of the NNW to 9 knots with a mixed swell NW to 4 feet and WSW 1 foot. Wind waves will be around 1 foot. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/. You can also call the National Weather Service at (707) 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at (707) 443-6484.
The Oceans: Eureka
In talking with the local skippers, they all agree that the warm water temperatures off the coast, which came with last week’s southerly winds, has moved the salmon out of the area. Whether they went deep or in close is anybody’s guess at this point, but they definitely aren’t out front in any big numbers. The north wind that’s currently blowing should push back in some cooler water with hopes the salmon will be with it. Current temperatures off Eureka are reading right around 56 degrees, which is four to five degrees higher than what the salmon prefer.
Skipper Phil Glenn of Celtic Charter Service temporarily put away the salmon gear after tough days on Thursday and Friday. Saturday he made the run south to the Cape and found a bunch of hungry rockfish, putting five limits in the box. Sunday and Monday he switched over to Halibut and put fish on board each day. Monday was his best day with two keepers to 54 lbs.
Captain Tim Klassen on the Reel Steel spent last weekend fishing south and reports a very hot rockfish bite. Friday he put limits of quality-grade rockfish in the cooler, and he was back down there Saturday with the same results — and as a bonus, he was able to stick one nice halibut and 5 lings along with limits of rockfish.
Captain Gary Blasi on the Seaweasel also reports a tough salmon bite late last week. After taking the weekend off, he decided to go for halibut on Monday and that turned out to be a wise decision. He put three nice keepers to 61 lbs in the box, all coming straight out in 300 feet of water while drifting herring. “I think the halibut bite is starting to turn on a little bit and with the north wind blowing, I think we’ll be getting back to normal conditions this weekend,” Blasi added.
According to Russ Thomas of Mario’s Marina in Shelter Cove, they had a spectacular weekend of fishing down at the Cove. On Saturday, only six boats made went out for salmon and collectively they landed 20. The word must have spread — over 30 boats launched on Sunday and the unofficial count was over 100 salmon brought back to the cleaning tables. “It was the best weekend we’ve had a in quite awhile. Not only was there a hot salmon bite, quite a few quality halibut were caught and there were lots of limits of rockfish brought in,” Thomas added. The salmon action was equally as good on Monday and Tuesday, though the amount of boats dwindled since the weekend. The weather has been nice in the morning, and according to Thomas, we’re in the pattern where the ocean is nice in the morning and the wind picks up in the afternoon. Thomas also adds the redtail perch bite was wide-open over the weekend, with everyone landing fish.
Chris Hegnes of Crescent City’s Englund Marine reports the rockfish action continues to be very good, with the Big Reef being the top spot. With this weeks rough water, a lot of the guys have been fishing right out in front at the Can and doing well. A few halibut have also been caught, including an 80-pounder at the Big Reef last weekend. The salmon effort continues to be minimal, but there was quite a few fish seen jumping out southwest in 60 fathoms,” Hegnes said.
The Rivers: Lower Klamath
Guide Mike Coopman reports most boats are averaging four to five hookups per trip, with a little better action coming earlier in the week. “There’s been a good early morning and evening bite, but the afternoons have been slow. Most fish landed are in the 12-14 pound range, with the occasional fish to 25 pounds. There continues to be quite a bit of boat pressure, even during the week. The river is still on the big side and rising slightly, but overall it’s in prime shape,” Coopman added.
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