MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Clams and oysters waiting for the taking around North Olympic Peninsula

SOME MIGHT SAY I’m doing you a disservice.

Spending an entire column writing about clams and oysters in the month of May?

For those who live by the ‘R’ month philosophy of shellfish harvesting, that’s sort of like recommending summer vacation homes in Phoenix, Ariz.

Sure, the Valley of the Sun offers plenty of sunshine that time of the year, but it also burns with such intensity that one can cook eggs on the sidewalk.

As far as the ‘R’ month crowd is concerned, shellfish season ends the day the calendar flips to May.

Clams and oysters are more likely to be harmful to consume and less likely to taste good even if they are safe to eat in the spring and summer, it’s said.

Am I one to argue the claim? No.

That being said, I’ve had some good experiences digging clams during summer months.

The tides can be quite favorable this time of year — next week’s low tides will dip below minus 3.0 feet in some areas — and it’s always more pleasant wading through cold water when it’s warmer than 50 degrees outside.

Plus, it’s pretty easy to stay on the ball concerning shellfish closures and health warnings as long as you have a telephone and/or internet connection.

You can always call the state Department of Heath at 360-236-3330, or visit www.doh.wa.gov and click on “shellfish” under the heading “beach closures.”

Just make sure to check in before each trip.

Now, here’s a list of beaches that should produce clams and/or oysters in the summer. Additional information is available on the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website (www.wdfw.wa.gov):

Dosewallips 
State Park

■ Location: Just south of Brinnon off U.S. Highway 101.

■ Season: March 1 through July 31 for clams and year-round for oysters.

■ Shellfish: Dosewallips is known to have great populations of manila littleneck clams and oysters.

It’s also been said that one can score geoducks in low tides below minus 2.0 feet.

Duckabush

■ Location: A few miles south of Brinnon off U.S. Highway 101.

■ Season: Open year-round for clams and oysters.

■ Shellfish: Duckabush has good populations of clams, most notably manila clams. As a former commercial oyster beach, it’s also loaded with oysters.

Much like its Hood Canal counterpart to the north, one can also dig up the elusive geoduck on low tides below minus 2.0 feet.

Quilcene Bay Tidelands

■ Location: East of Quilcene off Linger Longer Road.

■ Season: Open April 1 through Dec. 31 from official sunrise to sunset for clams and oysters.

■ Shellfish: The beach has a sizeable population of manila clams and small clams (minimum size is 1¼ inches at tidelands).

A decent population of oysters also have been planted at this beach.

Oak Bay 
County Park

■ Location: Southeast of Port Hadlock/Irondale off Oak Bay Road.

■ Season: May 1 through July 31 for clams and oysters.

■ Shellfish: This beach is all about clams, with native littleneck and manila clams present in the mid-high tidal zone.

Butter clams and cockles can also be found, which I have done in the past.

Diggers can also score geoducks at the Jefferson County beach on extreme low tides (minus 2.5 feet or lower) . . . supposedly.

Fort Flagler 
State Park

■ Location: Northern tip of Marrowstone Island.

■ Season: Open April 15 through July 31 for clams and oysters.

■ Shellfish: Clams are the focus of this beach, which is often susceptible to closures and health warnings.

The majority of the clams are located on the spit that runs west from the park.

Butter clams are plentiful, and there are also spots for native littleneck clams and horse clams.

Again, geoducks are said to be available in tidelands below the minus 2.0-foot level.

Sequim Bay 
State Park

■ Location: Four miles east of Sequim off U.S. Highway 101.

■ Season: Open May 1 through June 30 for clams and year-round for oysters.

■ Shellfish: This is one of the better beaches in Clallam County for oysters, with several areas home to Fish and Wildlife plants.

Butter clams and native littleneck clams are also abundant but often unharvestable because of health issues.

Right now, for example, the Clallam County beach is closed to butter clam harvest.

Cline Spit

■ Location: North of Sequim off Marine Drive.

■ Season: Open year-round for clams and oysters.

■ Shellfish: Dig at your own risk.

Often closed for health reasons, the small 80-yard patch of public beach has notable cohorts of native littleneck clams, manila clams and butter clams.

This is also a launching point to boat-access beaches like Old Town and parts of Dungeness Spit.

Pillar Point 
County Park

■ Location: East of Clallam Bay/Sekiu off Highway 112 near the mouth of Pysht River.

■ Season: Open all year for clams and oysters.

■ Shellfish: When crab are in season, this is a great place to wade for Dungies and dig up a few clams as well.

Most of the beach is very hard and rocky, but there are pockets of sand and gravel where littleneck clams can be found.

________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at matt.schubert@peninsuladailynews.com.

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