Fishing Report: Clamming on the Ninilchik beaches for the first time in nearly a decade

Published: Jul. 7, 2023 at 2:49 PM AKDT
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NINILCHIK, Alaska (KTUU) - Digging for clams on the Ninilchik beaches is digging up some old memories.

Thousands of people from near and far flocked to the once-popular clamming area from July 1-4 in hopes of leaving with a limit of 15 razor clams per day.

“I remember doing this as a kid,” Caleb Chase said, holding a bucket with a few clams. “I was no bigger than my kid over there, and watching mom and dad do this, just watching at first. Then when I got big enough they would dig a hole and I would dive in a try to get the clam and sometimes I wouldn’t come out and they had to fish me out too.”

“It’s great because my oldest got to go 10 years ago, now I have a bunch of little ones, so they get the whole new experience of being able to get the clams, so it’s great,” Tucker Mattox added on the beach.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game opened the East Cook Inlet sport razor clam fisheries for the first time since 2014 after a survey in the spring revealed an estimated 322,217 clams, exceeding 50% of the historical average abundance, opening a limited harvest opportunity.

“Razor clams historically — from the ‘70s through the mid-2000′s — had really good clamming here. The clams on this beach supported really large number of harvests and high level of participation,” said Mike Booz, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Lower Cook Inlet Area Manager. “From the mid- to late 2000′s we started experiencing a decline in productivity where there were fewer adult clams on this beach and progressing into 2011 (and) 2012, we really started to see fewer numbers of clams on this beach to a point where we ended up closing it completely in 2015.”

Some left with their limit, while others had less luck, but those who did not make this year’s window may not get a chance to next year.

”With the trends that we have been seeing over the last decade, including while the fisheries have been closed, it is more likely that we’re going to experience periodic openings for people to have an opportunity to dig clams here in Ninilchik,” Booz said. “We are not expecting it to be open next year, or maybe even the following, but we will be doing our surveys in the spring and there could always be surprises and we’ll go from there.”