Mucking about for clams

‘Digging for Dinner’ a popular Sound Water activity

The tide’s out, dinner awaits.

But before the shovel hits the sand, there are a few things to remember that might be called the double L, double P tips of clamming.

License, Limit, Poison and Preparation.

Sound Water Stewards is once again offering its free, popular classes, Digging for Dinner, to teach how to harvest clams safely and sustainably. The class covers how to know if biotoxin concerns have closed Whidbey’s many beaches to harvesting and how to properly prepare the nuggets of the sea.

The nonprofit environmental and educational group is in its 10th year of presenting the classes that review local species, such as butter, native littleneck and horse clams.

The first one of six classes this season is Saturday. About 50 people have signed up, said Kelly Zupich, the organization’s Whidbey coordinator.

“Sound Water Stewards provides these classes as a way to teach others to be good stewards and to safely eat and enjoy fresh shellfish,” she said. “All ages are encouraged and welcome as long as minors are accompanied by an adult.”

Participants meet at Double Bluff beach. They need to bring a shovel, bucket, boots, hat, sunscreen and drinking water. A donation of $10 per person helps offset the cost of providing the class.

A group shellfish license is provided without charge and covers the activity.

Licensing rules are covered as well as the “open season” dates of different shellfish.

Think “poison” to help you remember “to know before you go.” It means check the shellfish safety map the state provides for the latest updates on closed areas.

“It does depend on multiple factors if a bed is open or not,” Zupich explained. “These are changing times and it is more and more common to see many of our local clamming beaches closed due to high fecal bacteria, biotoxin or over harvesting.”

Last year, signs went up closing the waters around Penn Cove to any shellfish harvesting because testing revealed high levels of paralytic shellfish poison. The biotoxin can potentially lead to fatal paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans if consumed.

“One misconception is that you can just go out whenever to grab a clam treat for dinner,” Zupich said. “In reality, that mistake can cost you your life. Paralytic shellfish poisoning is nothing to joke about. There are easy ways to keep you and your family safe when harvesting.”

The Penn Cove ban has since been lifted.

Limits of size and quantity are also reviewed in Sound Water’s clamming classes.

“The rules depend on the species of clam,” Zupich said. “For horse clams, it is the first seven dug, size or condition does not matter. For the rest of our local species, it is a daily limit of no more than 40 clams, not to exceed 10 pounds in the shell, all species combined.”

How to properly cook clams is also covered in the two-hour classes.

If you missed the first class and can’t make the second class on June 28, clam down, there are four more classes during low tides next month all at Double Bluff beach:

Thursday, July 12, 9:30 a.m.

Saturday, July 15, noon

Thursday, July 26, 9:30 a.m.

Saturday, July 28, 10:30 a.m.

To sign up: email Put D4D in the subject line, what day you prefer and how many people will participate. For info go to

Mucking about looking for squirts in the sand is part of the fun of digging for clams. This summer, Sound Water Stewards teaches six Digging for Dinner classes. Photo provided

Mucking about looking for squirts in the sand is part of the fun of digging for clams. This summer, Sound Water Stewards teaches six Digging for Dinner classes. Photo provided

Side view of heart cockle clam.

Side view of heart cockle clam.

Butter clam with its siphon sticking out.

Butter clam with its siphon sticking out.