My fingernails may never be clean again.
That was my second thought after spending the afternoon out in the mud flats of Netarts Bay with about two hundred other people digging for clams.
My first thought was: I can’t wait to come back and do this again.
I’d never been clamming in my life before attending the free Clamming on the Bay clinic hosted by the Friends of Netarts Bay this spring. I’ve lived on the Tillamook Coast for nearly five years and had no idea what all the fuss was about, or why people insisted on getting up before the sunrise to play in the mud.
But as it turned out, there were other things I didn’t know, either.
I didn’t know that when you dig a hole to uncover these tasty little treasures, you should always rebury your hole. Leaving a pile of muddy sand suffocates the clams underneath it. But wait—when the tide comes in, won’t it just move the sand back into place? In fact, an incoming tide will only move about six inches of sand at a time, so when you leave a pile of sand higher than six inches, it could take up to two tidal flushes to move that sand and release the clams underneath.
I also didn’t know that you should hop around while clamming, to avoid creating a “clam desert.” In other words, if you dig trenches and pull all the clams you can find out of a single hole, that spot may not be able to sustain clams for up to 10 years. Instead, dig a single hole and gather your clams, then move another 10-15 feet and try again, rather than trying to get your day’s limit from just one dig. This ensures there are enough male and female clams present in a single area for reproduction purposes and keeps the Bay’s clam resources sustainable.
I learned all this and more from the volunteer instructors leading the free clamming clinic, which was the season kick-off of the Explore Nature Series, an organization of volunteers whose passion is to educate people about the Tillamook Coast and its natural resources and to offer instruction on how to enjoy it while minimizing the environmental impact.
The clamming clinic brought 50 people onto Netarts Bay during low tide—and most of us had no experience clamming before. And while anyone can get a shellfish license and try their hand at clamming, those present wanted to make sure they were harvesting clams in a sustainable and responsible manner. While digging our own holes and unburying clams, many of us filled in holes we found left behind by other clam diggers, in hopes of keeping the clams buried below alive and healthy.
The Explore Nature Series is offering a wide variety of clinics, tours, hikes and even activity days where people can get involved and learn more about the Coast’s natural resources. You can find more information on their participant page and a full list of upcoming events on their website, explorenaturetillamookcoast.com.
By Sayde Moser-Walker