Turns out you don’t have to go far from Yachats to get on your hands and knees and start digging for clams. You might even try as close as Yachats Bay, during low tide, since bay clamming is open coast-wide in September, October and November.
Just north of Yachats on Waldport Beach and a bit more north on North Beach and South Beach, at Yaquina Bay in Newport, you might be able to dig up Oregon’s famous and tasty razor clams, which are often used to make clam chowder. These clams have a smooth brown shell that’s long, thin and narrow. They like sandy beaches and some coastal bays, and they are fast, so you’ll need to be faster with your digging down under.
Gaper clams, also commonly harvested and good in chowders, like muddy areas best. They also like to bury deep in the muck, as far as a couple yards down. You’ll recognize them by the gape in the neck of their shells. Yaquina Bay is a favorite spot to find these clams.
Other clams that can be found in Oregon’s coastal bays at low tide are cockles, littlenecks, butter clams, softshells and purple varnish clams.
Your shellfishing license and the right tools
Before you head out, be sure the check the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s shellfish hotline to see whether any biotoxins in the waters are affecting safety to the public. You’ll also need to purchase a shellfish license before clamming. A one-day license for Oregon residents and nonresidents is $32.50, easily purchased online. Don’t go clamming without one!
As for the tools of the trade, as they say, it doesn’t take much! A narrow shovel with a long handle to dig up razors and such, and a four-tine rake for raking cockles, since they like to be near the surface, is all you really need. Wear boots or waders to keep yourself dry and warm. And bring a mesh bag or a bucket to put your clams in — each person should carry their own clam holder as there is a daily individual catch limit: 15 per day of razor clams and 20 per day of bay clams, of which only 12 gapers may be part of the bay clams total. Expect to get dirty during your clam quest. It’s part of the fun!