Digging for clams at Samish Island

T2 HEARTS clams. No exclamation point needed. She is very serious about her seafood. My little girl can easily eat 2 lbs of clams by herself! And at $5.98 a pound for Manila clams at the H-mart in Bellevue (and you are mostly paying for shell here), a dinner of clams for my parents, kids and us comes out to be pretty expensive! Big T’s colleagues are experienced clammers and they very kindly allowed us to tag along one of their clamming trips!
We went to the Samish Island recreational area and we all had a really good time digging for clams.
It took us about 1.5 hours from Bellevue to get there on a Saturday morning and was a really pleasant drive. There are only a few spots for parking, so people tend to get creative while parking on the side of the road. This area is open to clamming all year round but not all places are. A simple day trip would be lots of fun or renting a place for the weekend on Samish Island would be neat too! Samish Island looked like it had super cute little restaurants around but we didn’t stay to check them out. We headed back right away after a long day of digging and ready to eat the fruits of our labor.
The view at Samish Bay
Before you rush out with your shovels…
1. Obtain a shellfish license. You can do it online (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/) or get it at your local Fred Meyer. Kids under 15 do not require a license. Be mindful of the daily per person limit for the kind of clam you are collecting. Have a picture of your license on your phone or have a hard copy so you can show it to the park ranger readily.
2. Check the tide tables for the area you plan to clam. This one is for Samish Bay (http://tides.willyweather.com/wa/skagit-county/samish-point.html). You want a low tide, one with negative numbers so the water recedes way past your target area.
3. You will need some wellies or be prepared to get a pair of sneakers completely soaked and dirty. The wellies will keep your pants nice and dry too if you tuck them in.
4. Bring a hat and sunscreen if it is sunny. Bring a wind breaker and warm sweatshirt if it is cold and windy. When we went, it was overcast and really chilly. The kids got cold really fast and T1 actually started shivering after awhile.
5. You will need digging tools, e.g. shovels, rakes. You will also need pails to collect your clams.

6. At the park we went to, there was one port-a-potty. Bring your own drinking water and  sanitizing wipes or water to wash your hands. Bring your own first aid kit just in case you get little cuts and scapes.
Without further ado, here’s what happened. We got there just as it was about to hit low tide and walked out towards the receding waters. Don’t get there too late after the low tide or you will have not have much time to dig. It depends on what kind of clams you are looking for. If you are interested in cockles, a rake seems to be the most effective method. They are just slightly below the surface, and you can see the clams squirting water. A light rake will reveal a bunch and you can do 40 of these per person a day (double check to be sure).
If you are interested in Horse clams (7 per person per day), these require some apparatus and more muscle. Our friends had a bucket with a bottom cut out and they use that to prevent more mud from flowing in as you dig out the area to retrieve the clam. To find one of these, look for a little circular depression in the mud and often times, you can see the siphon of the horse clam in this circular depression. Place the bottomless bucket around the clam and push down to surround clam. Then, dig like crazy till you see the clam. It will be about 1 to 2 feet down.
My dad hard at work digging for a horse clam.
Our awesome haul
Big T and I used to go fishing on the weekends on a whim. We would drive 3 hours to the beach on a Saturday morning and fish all weekend. We enjoy being able to catch our meal for the day. Naturally, we were excited to share our passion with T1 and T2. T3 was snug as a bug in her car seat on a chilly morning. Hopefully, she will be out there digging up a storm with us pretty soon!
Is there space for Mummy under that blanket?
I think T1 and T2 had a good time but they were really cold after a while (more layers next time).
T2 having a good time digging.
T1’s first clam!
Hopefully, they won’t be as cold when the weather warms up. T1 was excited by the wildlife he found around him.

T1 found a baby crab.

T1 also found a baby flounder.
Here’s a sand dollar!

We will be back for more clams this summer!

2 thoughts on “Digging for clams at Samish Island”

    1. Sounds good Irene! We are planning to head over on the 28th of May, Sunday. Probably be there around 11 so that we can be all ready when the tide goes down at 12pm~

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