- On Ninilchik Beach: Trophy razor clams are so commonplace here,
sportsmen rarely bother to mount them. But when the bucket overflows and
you still don't have your limit, you know you've extracted your share of
the big ones from the clean, wet sandy beach below Ninilchik.
- When a big man's hand span doesn't reach the ends of the oval shell,
it's a keeper. Actually, you must keep any size you capture; only the unscrupulous
big game hunter would throw the little ones back. Rules also say "you
break it, you take it." Mangled clams are just as good; only a little
grittier in your chowder. On Cook Inlet's east side, your catch is the
first 60 you dig in a day. The only other rule is that diggers must have
current sports fishing licenses.
- Clam guns. They don't go "bang;" it's more like a hard suck.
Slurping thick lentil soup sounds similar. It's a simple invention; a cylinder
with little hole in the top you close with your thumb to create suction,
and a lifting handle. They are efficient and they rarely break the fragile
shells of the razors but you still see a lot more shovels than guns. Guess
real Alaskans have to do it the hard way. Make a couple of quick deep thrusts
with the curved shovel alongside the dimple, with the shovel blade turned
toward your boot toes, then drop like a shot to your knees and probe the
bottom of the icy cold hole for the feel of the slippery siphon which should
be just forward of where you dug. Pinch hard and hold, exerting steady
pull against his powerful digger. Researchers say they can dig vertically
as fast as an inch a second; faster if the clam is young and the sand is
warm and not too compact. Some harvesters work in teams, switching off
when the hole clawer's hands get too numb to feel the prey.
- A clamming expedition resembles a Sunday stroll on the beach, with
kids and dogs romping and playing amidst the serious work of the meat hunters.
Well, the meat hunters are serious, and it is hard work, but mainly it's
sport. Watch them coming off the beach, buckets loaded, catch not counted
yet and probably over the limit, still unable to resist a promising dimple.
- That's how it's done. A little round depression and hole, called a
"dimple," usually signals "clam below." Some worms
leave similar impressions, but the pros aren't fooled. Not very often anyway.
A whole patch of dimples sets a digger wild.
- There's not much danger of over harvesting the productive 50 mile stretch
of Cook Inlet beach from Anchor River to Kasilof River according to a shellfish
expert at the Soldotna office of Alaska Fish and Game, even though over
a million are taken each year.
- Clamming is legal year-round and the beds at Cohoe, Clam Gulch and
Oil Pad Access on the north end are exposed on any minus tide. The steep
cliffs along the southern beaches from Ninilchik to Whiskey Gulch require
at least a minus-three to a minus-four to access the beds.
- There are 12 excellent clam tides this summer beginning March 26; and
all of them are in convenient morning hours. Tide books are available everywhere;
most places free.
- After your outing, you're likely to arrive home muddy, wet cold and
tired. Now the fun begins. Resist the temptation to just set them in the
freezer, bucket and all. Before the energy level can drop, quickly boil
water, scald a few at a time in the kitchen sink and set a couple of helpers
to work with scissors and knives to remove the dark parts, leaving glowing
- Now, to provide added motivation, heat oil in a skillet, dip the clam
steaks in beaten egg, then dredge them in cracker meal (nothing else sticks
as well), fry ever so gently and quickly and lightly golden, about two
minutes. Of course there are many other popular ways to fix clams and also
several other varieties of clams to be taken from different beaches and
by different methods. Butters, steamers, little necks, basket clams and
cockles abound in gravel beaches across Kachemak Bay. Mud Bay at the base
of the spit on the Homer side also produces hard-shell clams which makes
for a nice easy hunt for visitors and locals alike.
- Of course, that means it's over harvested and less productive. Hard-shell
clams are not diggers so the main challenge lies in locating the beds,
then raking away a foot or so of gravel and mud. They're easy to spot;
just go out to the beach and watch for the squirts.
- Jackolof, Tutka, Kasitsna and Halibut Cove Lagoon all have productive
beaches, but Homer Fish and Game biologists say the best is Chugachik Island
at the head of Kachemak Bay. The clam beds between the island and the mainland
at Bear Cove go dry at low tides, exposing great digging.
- Cook Inlet has been virtually free of the only damper on clamming;
occasional threats of paralytic shellfish poisoning.
- Fish and Game estimates there are over 31,000 annual digger trips and
more than a million razors harvested from the east side of Lower Cook Inlet
- One of the beauties of this sport is that clammers are spread over
such a length of beach they hardly encounter each other except in the crowded
- Little wonder there's a growing number of outdoors people who enjoy
this sport as much as the pleasure of dining on their own freshly harvested
This guide brought to you by The
Homer Tribune. Publisher: Jane M. Pascall. Voice (907)235-3714,
Fax (907)235-3716 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
601 E. Pioneer Ave., Suite 109, Homer, AK 99603.
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