Shellfish Gathering

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Prepare yourself with buckets, boots, license and check the tides – to. harvest shellfish on local saltwater beaches – State Parks in Mason County support a healthy stock of clams and oysters for license holders – free for the taking (following regulations and limits).

Most beaches are open to harvest year round but are subject to seasonal and environmental closures. If you harvest clams or oysters during the summer months, make sure to keep them on ice or eat them soon after harvest. The DOH advises that all shellfish recreationally harvested during the months of June-September, should be cooked thoroughly to avoid illness due to Vibriosis. It is best practice to read all posted warnings or call the Marine Toxins/PSP Hotline: 1-800-562-5632 for a recorded message that is updated regularily or visit the detailed map at www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm.  Harvest regulations vary from beach to beach—be sure to check the rules at wdfw.wa.gov before digging. October to April is generally a good time to harvest clams and oysters on saltwater beaches. 

Harvesters – please fill in your holes to protect both shellfish and people. 


The substrate dug from the hole is usually placed in a pile on the beach near the hole. This pile can get quite large and it may not wash away or flatten out with the waves or incoming tide. The pile can cover creatures that live on the beach. These animals suffocate and die when they cannot take in fresh seawater.

Another reason to fill in the holes is to keep people from falling or tripping. Even a small hole becomes a hazard when the tide covers it. Someone wading at the water’s edge is likely to take an unexpected dip if they step into the hole or trip at its edge!

For more tips, including shellfish identification and current harvest regulations, visit wdfw.wa.gov. 

Rachel Hansen