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.
Size and Shape: Up to 2.5 inches. Oblong
Shell: Concentric rings with radiating line ridges. Siphon tips are split. Color can vary—typically grey, brown, or mottled. Some purple on the inside shell.
Depth: 2-4 inches.
Habitat: Gravel, mud, sand. Above the half-tide level.
Size and Shape: Up to 3.5 inches. Rounded
Shell: Concentric rings with radiating ridge lines. Siphon tips are fused. Color can vary – typically cream, grey, brown, or mottled. White inside shell.
Depth: 6-10 inches.
Habitat: Gravel, mud. Normally mid-tide level, sometimes lower intertidal or subtidal zone (up to 60 feet).
Size and Shape: Up to 5 inches. Heavy for size. Oval to square.
Shell: Concentric rings. No radiating ridge lines. Yellow to grey/white colored.
Depth: 12-18 inches.
Habitat: Sand, gravel, cobble. Lower intertidal or shallow subtidal zone (up to 60 feet).Warning! Butter clams retain marine biotoxins longer than other clams.
Size and Shape: Up to 3 inches. Oval, flat.
Shell: Concentric rings and shiny brown coating. Purple inside the shell.
Depth: 1-2 inches.
Habitat: Gravel, cobble, mud, sand. Upper one-third of the intertidal zone but can range into lower tidal level. Most abundant near freshwater inputs.
Warning! Varnish clams retain marine biotoxins longer and at higher levels than other clams.
Size and Shape: Up to 8 inches. Oval.
Shell: Chalky-white with yellow/brown patches of "skin" on the shell. Shell gapes around siphon. Siphon
can't be fully pulled into shell and has a leather-like flap on the tip.Depth: 1-2 feet.
Habitat: Sand, mud, gravel. Lower intertidal zone (up to 50-60 feet).
Size and Shape: Up to 6 inches. Oval to square.
Shell: Brittle, thin shells with rough irregular surface and uneven concentric rings. Chalky-white to grey with brown/yellow skin on the edges. Rounded at foot, pointed at siphon end.
Depth: 8-18 inches.
Habitat: Sand, mud. Upper half-tide level near river mouths (low salinity).
Size and Shape: Shell up to 10 inches. Weighs an average of 2.5 pounds and up to 10 pounds. Oblong, appears rounded at one end and cut-off at the other end.
Shell: Gaping oblong shell with concentric rings. White shell with flaky brown skin. Siphon and mantle are too large to withdraw into shell.
Depth: 2-3 feet.
Habitat: Mud, sand, gravel. Subtidal zone (some intertidal, accessible only on extreme low tides).
Size and Shape: Up to 3 inches for some species. The shell can be rounded or elongated and is white to purplish black and may be striped with yellow or brown. Unlike most bivalves, the Olympia oyster's shell lacks the periostracum, which is the outermost coating of shell that prevents erosion of the underlying shell. The color of the oyster's flesh is white to a light olive green.
Habitat: Bays and estuaries, attached to rocks
Pink & Spiny Scallops, often referred to as Singing Scallops because of the way they swim through the water as if flapping their mouths, have beautiful, colorful shells up to 3 inches wide. They are cooked in the shell or eaten raw like half-shell oysters. In either case, the whole animal is eaten, not just the abductor muscle like most scallops. Often, brilliantly colored orange roe surrounds the meat adding complexity to the flavor.
Jones Family Farms’ (orcas Is) is the sole source. A list of outlets can be found here.