Razor clams open four days in July

East Cook Inlet fishery opened for the first time in eight years

Community members were happy as clams this Fourth of July weekend as a limited harvest opportunity for east Cook Inlet razor clams was opened up in the Ninilchik area by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

From July 1 through July 4, all beaches along the Kenai Peninsula from three miles north of the Ninilchik River to the tip of the Homer spit were game for prospective clammers. However, the razor clam fisheries in the Clam Gulch area remain closed.

Area management biologist Mike Booz told Homer News on Saturday that the first day of the fishery saw “moderate effort.”

“We had a few hundred people on each beach at the major access locations, so it’s kind of about what we were expecting,” he said. “I think it’s a decent opportunity for people to get out and go dig some razor clams — maybe not in the same capacity that they did historically … but it’s an opportunity to … have a razor clam dinner and go have fun digging in the sand.”

Despite some rainy weather during the fishery, conditions were overall favorable to clammers, particularly with increasingly negative low tides occurring as the fishery progressed that exposed more beach area and clams that weren’t available for harvest on previous days.

Although the fishery was open to the tip of the Homer Spit, the majority of clammers dug near the access areas in Ninilchik, Deep Creek, and Whiskey Gulch, according to Booz.

“There are pockets of razor clams south of the Anchor River, but they’re very sparse, far and few between,” he said.

The holiday weekend marks the first time that east Cook Inlet sport and personal use razor clam fisheries were open in eight years since their closing in 2014, according to Booz. During the limited opportunity fishery, bag and possession limits were set for the first 15 clams dug, per person. Overall harvest in the limited fishery was not to exceed 10% of the total adult clam abundance.

Razor clam abundance surveys are conducted annually by ADF&G. Based on a management plan adopted by the Alaska Board of Fisheries in March 2022, the adult clam abundance for east Cook Inlet razor clams must meet or exceed 50% of the historical average abundance in order to open a limited harvest opportunity like the one conducted last weekend.

In the Clam Gulch area, the abundance of adult razor clams was found to be below the required threshold.

ADF&G determined, from consistent monitoring of the Ninilchik south beach, that the razor clam abundance in the Ninilchik area reached 67% of the historical average, a similar number to other years when the fishery had been opened, according to Booz.

“It’s a moderate amount of clams,” Booz told Homer News. “It’s not a super high density. There’s about half a clam per square meter. With a little bit of walking, you can find 15 clams without too much trouble.”

The limited harvest opportunity last weekend does not indicate a guarantee that the east Cook Inlet fishery will open next year in the Ninilchik or Clam Gulch areas.

“We assess abundance every spring, and if the number of adult clams reaches the threshold then (the fishery will) open,” Booz said. “But we’re not expecting it to (open) for the next year or two in the Ninilchik area. Clam Gulch is also likely to remain closed; the conditions just aren’t as good up there.”

“We’ll see it opening again when we get more new clams on the beach and give them a few years to grow up and make it to a size of clams that people want,” he said.

For additional information, contact Area Management Biologist Mike Booz or Assistant Area Management Biologist Holly Dickson at 907-235-8191.