Razor Clams

How to find and dig the best ones

Illustrations by Richelle Barger | Photos by Aaron Lavinsky | Published: May 5, 2015

Autumn marks that time of year, when locals and tourists alike flock to the Washington coast in search of the seemingly hidden razor clam. Marked by shows in the sand ­­ a telltale sign that a treasure lies below ­­ a clam feast is a few digs away.

How to Dig Razor Clams

Begin by looking for a “clam show,” a small depression or hole where the clam has withdrawn its neck or started to dig leaving a hole or dimple in the sand. The “show” may appear as a dimple (a depression in the sand), a doughnut (which has raised sides) or a keyhole (which is usually in drier sand areas and is shaped like an “hour­glass” or is a hole with very distinct sides).

Always look for and choose larger sized holes. Though not a guarantee, this is a good indication that the clam will be larger.

Clams will also show at the edge of the surf line when you pound the beach with a shovel handle or your foot. They may squirt sand and water out of the hole where they are located. You need to be quick when digging in the surf as razor clams dig quite fast in the soft fluid sand. Proper digging improves efficiency and minimizes the breaking of clams and cut fingers.

How to Dig With a Clam Shovel

1. Place the shovel blade 4 to 6 inches seaward of the clam show. (The handle of the shovel should be pointed toward the sand dunes.)

2. Use your body weight to push the shovel blade straight into the sand while you drop to one knee. In hard sand, gently rock the shovel handle from side to side for ease of entry. It is very important to keep the blade as vertical as possible to keep from breaking the clam shell.

3. Pull the handle back just enough to break the suction in the sand, still keeping the blade as straight as possible. The sand will crack.

4. Remove sand by lifting the shovel upward and forward. Repeat this 2 to 3 times.

5. Succeeding scoops of sand expose the clam enough to reach down with your hand and grasp its shell. Razor clams move rapidly downward but not horizontally. Make sure you keep the first 15 clams and avoid wasting any.


1. Remember you must keep the first 15 razor clams dug, regardless of size or condition

2. Using hand or a hand operated shovel or you may employ a cylindrical can or tube.

3. Each digger must have a separate container, but may share a digging device. The openings of cylindrical cans or tubes for razor clam digging must be either circular or elliptical. If circular, minimum dimensions: is four inches, if elliptical 4” long by 3” wide ­ outside diameter. Best advice: Look for the bigger hole in the sand…it could lead to a bigger clam.