Answering questions about clam tides

Our choice of tides is driven by the tide tables — over which we have no control. Along the coast of the Pacific Northwest each year, during the period (that runs from mid to late September to mid to late March) the best low tide of the day always falls during p.m. hours. There are NO good a.m. low tides during this entire period.

As a result, in the fall and winter months, we choose the p.m. tides to maximize diggers’ opportunities to get a limit of clams. For example, Oct. 7’s dig was set to coincide with the best low tide, which was at 9 p.m. at -0.8 feet. The morning low tide was at 8:16 a.m. at +1.7 feet. Clearly, the best digging will occur on the evening’s tide.

However, the times of many of p.m. tides allow for digging in daylight conditions if you’re out on the beach. Digging can start a couple of hours before low tide — although that night’s tide is not an example of that.

In the spring months (and continuing through the summer until early September), the phases of the moon change and the best low tides switch to occur during a.m. hours. During this period there are NO good p.m. low tides. That will certainly again be the case when there are good low tides in March, April and May 2014 that occur during a.m. hours and in daylight conditions.

Evening and nighttime tides have long been a part of razor clam harvest season structure on the Washington coast. During the harvest openers offered on evening tides in October, November and early December 2012, we estimated 105,000 digger trips were made with an average of 13.0 clams per digger harvested. This tells us that many people enjoyed successful digging trips — even with the evening tide times.

I hope that helps you understand our choice of tides.

Dan Ayres

Fish and Wildlife Coastal Shellfish Manager