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How to harvest geoduck clams

a tray of food

Geoduck are called the king of clams for a reason. When they are eaten raw and fresh from the sea they have an almost crunchy texture and have a briny and slightly sweet flavour. These big beauties are the laughing stock of the sea, but amazingly can go for $60/lb. If you on the Pacific coast and haven’t tried one yet, you must, it’s a lovely local clam that claims the title of the largest clam in the world. And, you can harvest some yourself with a LOT of elbow grease as long as you’re not afraid of getting muddy.

Where to go: Find a muddy/sandy beach and look for quarter sized holes in the sand, sometimes you can see their siphon (fleshy neck of the clam) poking out of the hole. In BC, Deep Bay in Baynes Sound is a good starting point or near Comox and Nanaimo. There is a shellfish harvesting map by the department of fisheries that will show you all of the areas that you area allowed to harvest in BC. In Washington and Oregon, you can go to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to check map locations. Check the licensing, requirements depending on where you are, in BC you need a salt water fishing license ($22/year).

Pst…Come on one of our sea foraging trips from Vancouver, BC to learn more about all the seafood you can harvest from the coast without a boat. Join our members list to find out about the next one.

geoduck clams

Timing: Under a -2 ft low tide is best (after a full moon is a good bet), in other words, really low tide. You can use apps like Navionics (boating app) to check for tide heights in different areas or just look up tide charts for your area.

How to harvest geoduck: Get yourself a big bucket and cut the bottom out, a spade and some rubber gloves. Once you find a large siphon hole you have to dig straight down (about a 1ft diameter). You may have to dig about a meter depending on the age of the clam (they can live to over 100 years and the older they are the deeper they sit in the mud). Dig down about a foot around the hole careful not to dig too fast and cut the siphon off. Place your bucket around the hole area, this just keeps the sandy walls from falling in. Then, dig inside the bucket carefully and generally around the initial siphon hole so you don’t crack the shell of the geoduck with your shovel. Once you notice the shell, dig all around the geoduck to loosen it out of the sand and carefully remove it from the shell, don’t pull at the siphon. Once you dig one up put it in a bucket of sea water for 4 hours to purge sand.

Other clams: For those of you looking to find an easier mark (less digging and more areas that are open to harvesting); littleneck, manila and butter clams can be harvested recreational shellfish reserves on Vancouver Island which make a fun weekend trip. Bring a bucket, a small shovel, some rubber gloves and a rake to help you dig (most of the clams can be found in the first foot of sand) More info here.

PSP and Sanitary conditions: It’s super important to check the DFO maps for Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning and sanitary closures before you dig. They test the waters to make sure the shellfish area is safe as a person can die if they eat contaminated shellfish and note that cooking the shellfish doesn’t destroy the toxins.