KALALOCH BEACH WASN’T included on a tentative schedule of fall razor clam digs announced by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife this week.
The Pacific Ocean beach south of Forks has only hosted one two-day razor dig (in early 2017) since 2012, so it would have been much more surprising to see tentative digs.
But the shovel and lantern set shouldn’t despair. Conditions have improved for the razor clam population at Kalaloch according to razor clam stock assessments made this summer by Fish and Wildlife scientists, treaty tribes and Olympic National Park.
“[Kalaloch is] certainly looking better,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for Fish and Wildlife.
“In the one-year class of clams they are all pretty small, so the clams we would be harvesting on would be in the 3 to 3 ½-inch range.
“Some of the folks we talked to in the area have told us those are pretty small to go out and dig a limit of 15 clams, so my gut feeling is we need to give those clams some time to get a little bigger to make it at least worth the drive.”
Traditionally, Olympic National Park has preferred razor clam digs at Kalaloch be held during daylight hours.
It’s not incredibly difficult to access the beach, but Kalaloch in the dark does pose more risks than Mocrocks or Long Beach where diggers have various access points.
“This is a particularly dark winter in terms of tides,” Ayres said. “The best low tides fall where they fall and for this set the best digging tides are always going to be PM tides.
“We try to center the digs around a weekend and pick the best tides we can to help folks find success.”
Small clams and bad weather conditions hampered the last dig at Kalaloch, held in daylight back in January of 2017.
Peaks and valleys
A depressed population of harvestable-sized clams resulted in no digs at Kalaloch during the 2017-18 seasons.
“Clams in general seem to grow a little slower there than our other ocean beaches,” Ayres said.
“You visit Mocrocks or Copalis beaches and the water looks brown. And that brown-colored water is a very good sign — high levels of plankton. You drive down [U.S. Highway] 101 and stop in and take a look at Kalaloch and it’s hard to see that brown color. So the clams at Kalaloch have a little less groceries to get by on.”
Ayres said the geography found at Kalaloch differs from the state’s other razor clam beaches.
“It’s really an oceanographic thing. Kalaloch has a lot steeper beach and the sea floor drops off quickly. The whole bag of worms is not quite as productive at Kalaloch. So Kalaloch has had a long history of those peaks and valleys population-wise.”
Ayres cautions that the state has yet to formally engage with treaty tribes and Olympic National Park, the three co-managers of clamming at Kalaloch, in regard to future dig dates in 2019.
But he did say potential digs could be coming next spring.
“This bunch of clams have gotten bigger [since surveys last winter], and they’ve definitely grown some [since summer assessments], so I certainly expect to have those discussions when we get to morning tides,” Ayres said.
State shellfish managers are also seeking public input on management options, including scheduling for spring digs. Comments on the spring digs can be sent via email to [email protected]
Based on beach surveys conducted this summer, Fish and Wildlife estimates the total razor clam population on most Washington’s beaches has increased significantly from last season, which means more days of digging this season. The exception is Long Beach, an area that is recovering after a decline in clam survival due to low salinity in winter 2017.
“The good news is that future digging opportunities look really great, with some opportunity even at Long Beach,” Ayres said. “This is shaping up to be a great season for digging on the coast.”
Proposed razor clam digs through December are listed below, along with evening low tides and beaches:
• Oct. 11, Thursday, 8:58 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Oct. 12, Friday, 9:41 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Oct. 13, Saturday, 10:26 p.m.; +0.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Oct. 25, Thursday, 7:55 p.m.; -0.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Oct. 26, Friday, 8:36 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Oct. 27, Saturday, 9:19 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Oct. 28, Sunday, 10:08 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Nov. 8, Thursday, 6:57 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Nov. 9, Friday, 7:36 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Nov. 10, Saturday, 8:15 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Nov. 11, Sunday, 8:56 p.m.; 0.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Nov. 22, Thursday, 5:55 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Nov. 23, Friday, 6:36 p.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Nov. 24, Saturday, 7:20 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
• Nov. 25, Sunday, 8:05 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Dec. 6, Thursday, 6:01 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Dec. 7, Friday, 6:40 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Dec. 8, Saturday, 7:16 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Dec. 9, Sunday, 7:53 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Dec. 20, Thursday, 4:51 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Dec. 21, Friday, 5:35 p.m.; -1.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
• Dec. 22, Saturday, 6:20 p.m.; -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
• Dec. 23, Sunday, 7:05 p.m.; -1.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
Final approval of all scheduled openings will depend on results of marine toxin tests, which are usually conducted about a week before a dig is scheduled to begin.
For more information, visit wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.
The Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) will hold a beached bird training session in Forks on Saturday.
The training will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Olympic Natural Resources Center’s Social Hall, 1455 S. Forks Ave.
COASST participants collect data on beach-cast carcasses of marine birds on a monthly basis to establish the baseline pattern of bird mortality on North Pacific beaches.
Data collected helps address important marine conservation issues and protect marine resources.
Beach surveys are best conducted in groups of two or more, so interested volunteers are asked to attend the training with a survey partner or plan to join a team during training.
COASST is managed by the University of Washington School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences.