This could be a razor clam year to remember: State shellfish managers have announced an early opening of one Pacific Coast beach even before full 2013 season plans have been finalized.
Five days of noon to midnight digging will start on Twin Harbors razor clam management beach Thursday, Sept. 19, running through Monday, Sept. 23.
Slack ebbs in this sequence start just before sunset, transitioning to well after dark, so prospective diggers should bring their own illumination for digging.
The clams have been tested and marine toxin levels are safe.
"We have a huge number of clams available for harvest this season, particularly at Twin Harbors," said Dan Ayers, a coastal shellfish manager. "There are only so many good clamming tides during the year and we decided there was no time to waste getting started."
State managers still plan meet Thursday, Sept. 19, in Long Beach to go over results of summer surveys and discuss scheduling for the rest of fall and winter, but Ayres is optimistic.
"The testing shows an even higher density of razor clams on most beaches than last year, when diggers enjoyed a banner season," Ayres said.
Final figures pegged the 2012-13 personal-use haul at 6.1 million razor clams. The season average daily digger bag carried 14.5 razor clams; the bag limit is 15 per day.
Although marine toxins and weather are key wild cards that could influence openings, he expects this abundance to translate into even more digging days this season on several beaches including Twin Harbors and Long Beach.
This pursuit, enjoyed by tens of thousands of people, is lucrative not just for its direct participants.
Department of Fish and Wildlife administrators point to a study by University of Washington researchers which concluded that an estimated $37 million in economic benefit, much of that going to coastal communities, was derived from the 2012-13 personal use razor clam season.
Before cementing this year's sport razor clam season, department managers will accept public comments on the 2013 stock assessment report and proposed openings schedule options until Monday, Sept. 30.
Persons wanting to comment can direct their correspondence via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For online reviewing of the razor clam beach survey report log into http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/seasons_set.html.
General information including how to of razor clam digging can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.
Following this input period, the department will announce the calendar of dig dates and beaches involved for October, November and December.
PHEASANT HUNTS NEXT DOOR
A 375-acre site west of Interstate 5 at Bow Hill in Skagit County about 14 miles south of Bellingham has again been secured for pheasant hunting this fall.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources-managed trust parcel, made available to the fish and wildlife department, is one of two sites that will be open to Northwest Washington upland birds hunters for this fall's general pheasant season that starts Saturday, Sept. 28. There will be only one off-street parking area on Ershig Road for this site.
The second pheasant release site is the 220-acre WDFW Smith Farm holding on Leque Island west of Stanwood just south of State Route 532, the Camano Island Highway. It has two parking/access entries.
A handy locale for Bellingham area youth and senior pheasant pursuers this coming weekend is the Samish Unit, also known as the Welts or West 90 unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area.
This 400-acre unit on former farmland up against the Padilla Bay sea dike is west of Edison on Samish Island Road.
In Skagit County pheasant releases will be made only on the Samish Unit for the Sept. 21-22 youth bird hunting weekend and the five-day age 65 and older pheasant hunt set for Sept. 23-27. This WDFW-owned locale will transition after the last weekend of September to waterfowl hunting, which starts Saturday, Oct. 12.
Both the Bow Hill and Leque Island designated release sites will be stocked each week with pheasants for the duration of the Western Washington general pheasant season that's set to start Saturday, Sept. 28.
For specific location details for designated release sites on both sides of the Cascades, log onto the WDFW Web portal http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/upland_birds/pheasant.html.
FIRE CONCERNS EASE ON THE EASTSIDE
Consistent with the relaxation of fire restrictions on state forest lands east of the Cascades, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as of Wednesday, Sept. 11, also eased limitations on certain activities on its lands there.
While campfires are still banned, it's again permissible to:
-- Smoke outside of enclosed vehicles.
-- Target shoot outside designated ranges (except in the Wenas Wildlife Area).
-- Drive motor vehicles off developed, gravel roads.
-- Run chainsaws and other internal combustion engine equipment.
A similar easing of fire restrictions on its Western Washington holdings was announced on Thursday, Aug. 15.
Hunters heading into the field the last half of September and into early October should check the U.S. Forest Service or Washington Department of Natural Resources for up-to-the-minute fire conditions and restrictions.
FINDING NEMO'S BIGGER COUSINS
If you've ever wondered whether your fish finder was giving you the full picture of what's under your boat, your doubts might be erased at the Wednesday, Sept. 18, meeting of the Bellingham Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers.
Guest speaker Steve Chamberlin of the Fidalgo Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers will give a 30-minute presentation on the strengths and weaknesses of today's consumer electronic acoustic fish finding devices.
Chamberlin will discuss and field questions from the audience concerning the interpretation of images and a number of ways you can maximize your fish finder's operation.
Bellingham PSA gathers each third Wednesday of the month for dinner at 6:30 p.m. and a program at 7 p.m. at Nicki's Bella Marina Restaurant at Squalicum Harbor.
Each year the club holds the inaugural salmon derby of the summer season in our waters and invests the contest's proceeds in salmon enhancement programs and scholarships for area students.
Bellingham Puget Sound Anglers are online at http://www.bellinghampsa.com/index.htm.
Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent, since 1983 has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that now appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at http://pbogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoors.