At extreme low tides along West Coast ocean beaches clam diggers converge in droves to fill buckets, sacks and plastic mesh bags with legal limits of razor clams. Pacific razors range along the ocean front from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to as far south as Pismo Beach, California. They populate the coastline in accessible beaches from about the mean high tide to sands exposed during low tides. Preferred digging occurs during maximum low (minus) tides along sandy stretches where harvesting pressure generally remains minimal.
Clam diggers generally employ one or more of three methods for extracting razor clams from their comfortable situation just beneath the surface of the sand: hand digging, shoveling, tube manipulation.
Having spotted a telltale dimple or tiny hole in the sand, the clam digger kneels and begins carefully pulling back handfuls of sand from around the indicator. Barehanded digging works; many clam diggers wear plastic gloves to protect their fingers from the abrasive action of the sand. In either case, careful digging prevents either damaging the clam’s shell or cutting a finger on the razor sharp edges of a shell. From six inches to a foot or more below the surface, the clam should come into view. A good way to extract the clam from the hole is to grasp it by the now visible neck and slowly but firmly pull the clam free.
Sporting goods outlets offer special clam digging shovels that have long, narrow, curved blades. The technique used in shoveling for razor clams consists of four steps: 1. Place the shovel blade about five inches on the ocean side of the clam hole or dimple. The shovel handle should point toward the sand dunes. 2. Push the blade straight down into the sand. 3. Lift the blade upward and toward the dunes to scoop sand from the expanding hole. 4. As with hand digging, kneel and remain prepared to reach in and grasp the clam when it appears.
Using a tube:
Metal cylinders or tubes, sometimes referred to as clam “guns,” minimize or make unnecessary any digging for razor clams. The tube stands about thigh high and has handles that permit plunging the tube’s open lower end into the sand around the clam’s show hole or dimple. The tube will have an air vent, either in the top of the tube itself or on the underside of one of the handles, that makes it easier to push the tube deep into the sand. With the tube drilled into the sand down to from six to ten inches, cover the vent with a finger or thumb to create a vacuum when pulling the tube out of the sand. The tube will extract a core of sand which, hopefully on the first draw, has entrapped the clam.
Main reason for digging clams:
Razor clams have a mild but distinctively marine flavor when cooked. The flesh being a bit chewy or tough, cooking over medium heat for about four minutes on a side when frying will keep from toughening the meat more. Some cooks like to roll the clam meat in a seasoned batter before frying. Other methods of preparing razor clams for the table include using strips of the meat in stir fry recipes, adding the meat to a marine flavored soup or stew and chopping the meat into tiny cubes for clam chowder. Anyone who enjoys fresh seafood will appreciate a dish or bowl of steaming hot cooked razor clams.