• 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 creamy filets.
  • 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 each year.
  • 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 parking areas.
  • 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 clams.


This guide brought to you by The Homer Tribune. Publisher: Jane M. Pascall. Voice (907)235-3714, Fax (907)235-3716 E-mail: info@homertribune.com, 601 E. Pioneer Ave., Suite 109, Homer, AK 99603.


This publication is copyrighted and all rights reserved. No portions may be reproduced without written permission of the Homer Tribune.

No photos or images may be used without written permission from the Homer Tribune.