Clam Fest digging tips from state’s Coastal Shellfish Manager

  • Wed Mar 13th, 2019 11:25am
  • News

As the coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, no one knows razor clams better than Dan Ayres.

His best advice, especially in this time of year, is to keep an eye on the surf, especially in stormy conditions. Make sure you first check the ocean forecast online, especially the NOAA National Weather Service site, and if the swell height is expected to be above 11 feet, “You probably will be better off staying home that day,” Aryres advises.

Last year, he told about an incident in Twin Harbors on the South Beach where he was hit by a wave with water up to his waist while saving a woman who was unaware how swiftly conditions can change.

“You try to keep your eye on conditions and it makes life easier,” Ayres said.

Clam digging, weather you use a shovel or a tube, is “not hard to do and easy to learn,” the coastal veteran says. But you have to have the right shovel, not a normal garden shovel. A tube is often easier to use for beginners, Ayres says.

One simple piece of advice — don’t be afraid to ask others: “If you’re on the beach and having trouble finding a show, which is usually the hardest part, there are a whole lot of teachers out there. Most people who know what they’re doing are happy to show you, especially if you see somebody with a bag and they’re about done.”

For this weekend timed to the Razor Clam and Seafood Festival, there are clam digs on the late afternoon tides for Saturday at the Copalis digging area from Ocean Shores to Copalis Beach, and for Sunday in the Mocrocks digging area north of Copalis to Moclips. Another Mocrocks dig is set for the evening tide on Thursday, March 21, with a switch to morning tide digging on March 22-24.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife have several videos featuring Aryes that show not only how to dig for razor clams but also explain how the seasons and dig dates are determined. See Ayres out on the Copalis beach area on YouTube:

All diggers age 15 or older must have a fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. New 2019-20 fishing licenses will be required for dates in April. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license (starting at $9.70) to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at and from license vendors around the state.

Razor Clam Contest

The first ever Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival Contest to see who found thelargest and smallest razor clam takes place on Saturday. When you return from the beach, bring your clam uncleaned limit to the booth just inside the food tent in front of the Convention Center between 2:30 and 5 p.m. Saturday and see how you measure up against the competition. The contests include prizes for “Biggest Clam Dug” and “Smallest Clam Dug.” There is no entrance fee. Judges will be WDFW shellfish biologists who will measure and record the shell length of the clams you choose for entry. Prizes provided and presented by the Ocean Shores Razor Clam & Seafood Festival at 5:30 p.m. at the stage (and right before the party that takes place for the public at the Convention Center).

Razor Clam & Seafood Festival info


Professional Chowder Contest — On Saturday purchase a sampling passport for $6, taste all the chowders, and vote for your favorite for the People’s Choice Award. On Sunday, the tasting continues at the individual booths. Guest chef to judge the Professional Chowder Contest, Cynthia Nims. Cynthia will also be doing a cooking demonstration, 1 p.m. Saturday on the stage.

Cynthia Nims is a distinguished cookbook author and culinary consultant who holds the Grand Diplôme d’Etudes Culinaires from La Varenne cooking school in France. She has written, edited and contributed to a few dozen books and is a James Beard Award nominee. Her latest is Oysters and Crab. Cynthia was editor of Simply Seafood magazine, food editor of Seattle Magazine, and has written for a wide variety of publications. Her blog, Mon Appétit, can be found at She and her husband live in Seattle.

Participating Restaurants:

Bennett’s Fish Shack Ocean Shores

Emily’s at the Quinault Beach Resort Casino Ocean Shores

Kokopelli Grill Port Angeles

Ocean Crest Resort Moclips

South Puget Sound Community College Olympia

The Lighthouse Ocean Shores

Amateur Chowder Contest

The Amateur Chowder Contest is on Sunday and while the public can’t taste chowder, judges will reward the efforts of regular folks, making their favorite chowder. The award ceremony is at 2:30 p.m. Registration is available through Saturday, on the event website or at the Festival.


Saturday evening from 6-8 after clamming is done, join in a free “Clamtastic Party” with live music featuring 80 Proof Ale (, food, and bar, then finish off the night at Quinault Beach Resort Casino, with Motown Cowboys playing in the Ocean Lounge.


Saturday morning at 10am, take a run and come back for lunch. You can register even up to the day of the race at


Volunteers are neeed all weekend. Prior to the Festival you can sign-up online at the website, During the Festival, just come to the information booth in the lobby. Volunteers are mostly needed at the information booths and as greeters.