How to Spot a Razor Clam

Written by frank whittemore
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Razor clams are edible clams with thin and long shells reminiscent of a straight razor. The clams are found predominantly on the sandy shorelines of the West Coast of the United States and are considered a delicacy by many who harvest them by hand. When hunting for razor clams, it is important to look for the "clam show." This is the telltale sign on the surface of the sand that indicates the clam is below. There are three primary types of clam shell, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. These include a dimple, doughnut, keyhole and "V" shape in the sand that betray the presence of the clam.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Clam shovel
  • Collection bag

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  1. 1

    Walk along the beach in an area known to hold razor clams, preferably two hours before and up to low tide, when the largest amount of area is available.

  2. 2

    Look for the telltale clam show, which is usually a small dimple or depression in the sand that can range from the size of a dime to the size of a quarter.

  3. 3

    Look for other types of holes that razor clams produce in the sand. These sometimes resemble an old-fashioned keyhole or a doughnut-shaped mound that may form around the dimple, indicating the clam is under the sand at that point.

  4. 4

    Watch along the surf break for "necking." This occurs when razor clams extend their siphons above the sand to feed. When clams are necking, the receding water will form V-shaped trails in the sand caused by water flowing around the siphon.

  5. 5

    Slap the sand with the back of a shovel or stomp the sand with your boot in areas near the surf line. This can cause clams to squirt sand and water out of the holes in which they are located. These clams can move quickly through the soft sand, so dig fast to catch them.

  6. 6

    Insert your clamming shovel 4 to 6 inches from the clam show on the seaward side. Pull the clam shovel back and up in a diagonal movement, removing sand from above the clam. Continue this process until the clam is exposed and you can remove it from the sand with your hand.

Tips and warnings

  • To avoid wastage, which is the accidental damaging and subsequent disposal of clams too small to harvest, look for clam show that is at least the size of a dime or larger.

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