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Bringing home your catch

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Clams and Oysters


All oysters taken by sport harvesters on public tidelands must be shucked (opened) on the beach, and the shells left on the same tideland and tide height where they were taken.

Items you’ll need for cleaning your catch include a quality oyster knife and a

pair of garden gloves to protect your hands from cuts. Don’t use screwdrivers or household knives. Have a container with a cover on hand to hold the oyster meat and their liquid.

  1. Grip the oyster, flat side up, and force the tip of an oyster knife between the shells just next to the hinge.
  2. Pry and twist the knife, while pushing the blade into the oyster to break the hinge. Run the blade along the inside of the upper shell to free the oyster, removing the top shell. Then scrape along the lower shell and remove the oyster, picking out any loose fragments of the shell.

Detailed directions are available on our "How to shuck an oyster" website.

Razor clams

Items you’ll need for transporting and cleaning your catch include a bucket, a sharp knife and/or scissors, kettle, colander.

Like all shellfish, razor clams must be kept alive and cleaned as soon as possible after digging. Place them in a bucket and cover with a cool, damp cloth. Keep them out of the sun and store in a cool place. Do not immerse them in water or put them in an airtight container. Shells of live oysters, clams or mussels will either be tightly closed or slightly open. If shells are open, tap them lightly with your finger. If the shell closes, the clam is alive. If the shell is gaping open or does not close after tapping the clam is dead, and must be discarded.

Cleaning razor clams
Rinse all sand from the clams and place them in a colander or in the sink. Pour boiling water over them for 5 to10 seconds until their shells "pop" open. Do not soak the clams in boiling water, which will cause toughness. Immediately run clams under cold water.

Shells also can be removed by running a sharp knife along the inner surface of the shell to cut the four attachments of the clam’s paired, adductor muscles, and then prying off the shell.

To clean the clam, remove its siphon, gills and digestive tract — the dark parts of the clam. Detailed steps for cleaning the clams and recipes are located on our "How to clean razor clams" website.

Littleneck, horse and butter clams, mussels

Once harvested, these shellfish can be covered with a damp cloth (not airtight) and stored safely in the refrigerator for up to a week before cleaning and eating.

Mussels and smaller clams, such as Manila littleneck, native littleneck, cockle and butter clams, do not need to be cleaned before eating. Only clams with closed shells should be used; discard any clam with an open shell. Clams can be steamed or used in chowder.

Horse clams should be cleaned in the same manner as a razor clam.


Items you’ll need for storing and cleaning your catch include a bucket, a sharp paring knife, kettle, and gloves.

Like other shellfish, geoducks must be kept alive until they are cleaned, and should be cleaned as soon as possible after digging. Place them in a bucket and cover with a cool, damp cloth. Don’t immerse in water or airtight container. Keep them in a cool place, out of  direct sun.

  1. Rinse all sand from the geoduck, blanch them in boiling water for 10 seconds and then submerge in cold water.
  2. Scrape a knife along the inside of the shell to cut the adductor muscles. Use gloves to avoid cutting your hand on the sharp shell edges.
  3. Pull out and discard the visceral mass, consisting of gills and stomach, leaving the siphon and mantle.
  4. To peel the tough skin off the siphon and body, place the geoduck in hot water for about 45 seconds. Peel the skin starting with the body and continuing off the end of the siphon.
  5. Wash the clam thoroughly.
  6. Split the siphon by inserting a knife or scissors and cut the siphon lengthwise. Wash the siphon, removing all traces of sand and grit.
  7. Siphon meat is firm and tough and can be sliced thin at an angle and pounded gently with the smooth side of a meat mallet to tenderize into thin steaks for sautéing.
  8. The meat of the body is more tender than the siphon. Split the meat down the median line and chop. Tenderizing is not necessary if you intend to use the siphon or body meat in chowder.

Here's an interesting video on how to clean and prepare Geoducks.