The Halds

The Halds, two summers ago, on their first clam trip courtesy of Basin Tackle.

Howdy, everyone! I hope you have been enjoying the unseasonably warm and sunny days and using them to your advantage like we have. Ocean conditions have been good, fishing hot, crabbing also good, and clamming excellent as always.

As far as the ocean goes, the ling bite is still amazing but the rockfish isn’t quite at the same level. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still awesome overall, but compared to last year, it feels slow. There is an exception: bay fishing has never been hotter and I have literally caught hundreds of rockfish in the past week or so. Yes, I said hundreds and you can stop rolling your eyes in disbelief. From the jetties or out of a boat we have been catching so many rockfish that I now carry a little hand clicky thing that keeps track of the numbers — and we consider days where we catch 50 to 60 fish really slow. 

Next week we will talk about tactics and areas and get into more detail but today I want to talk about clams. While there is no “season," this is the time of year that we see increasing interest in this outdoor activity. We put on free clinics all year long and teach hundreds of people how to collect, cook, and clean these marvels of the mud. We get so much interest that we now have class dates for the whole season posted in advance and a sign-up area on our new webpage. In addition to this, I will be teaching claminars (clam seminars) at the upcoming Roseburg and Medford Sportsmen’s shows. Yes, you can teach clamming in a classroom but we recommend following up with us on the mud flats.

My favorite of all the clams is the largest bay clam in Oregon, the gaper clam. Also known as an empire or horseneck clams, these clams grow to six inches in length. So with a daily limit of 12, that translates to a lot of good eating! Gapers prefer a sandy or muddy habitat which makes for easy digging. The problem is that they live deep, real deep, often up to 18 inches, but I assure you that they are worth the effort. Even though these critters are some of the nastiest looking animals on the coast, once they are cleaned and cooked, their delicious white meat lend themselves well to chowder, gumbo, clam strips, fritters, and whatever else you can dream up.

One of the most interesting aspects of the gaper clam is not the clam itself, but rather the tiny little tenants it houses inside. Most gaper clams, including every one that I’ve dug up, has a pair of tiny little pea crabs residing within. The female pea crab is the larger of the pair and remains inside the gaper sheltered by the clam itself. The male pea crab comes and goes at will, presumably to watch football at the local pea crab sports bar and hang out with friends.

There are almost as many ways to dig a gaper as there are clam diggers. Some of the techniques include clam shovels, garden spades, garden trowels, five-gallon buckets with the bottoms cut out, and many more, but the most common is just grabbing a shovel and “getting at it.”

The official Basin Tackle method is using a clam-pump. We are converting the clamming public, slowly but surely, away from shovels. We find it relatively quick and easy and it leaves a minimal “footprint” in their habitat. If you are interested come and see us at the sports shows or sign up for a class.

Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at (541) 888-FISH, by Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or e-mail at basin_tackle@yahoo.com.

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