[SF Bay Area] Geoduck digging?

I feel like clamming again after joining one such session years ago at Dillon Beach near Bodega Bay. So I looked at the 2018 tide calendar to see when is a great time for geoduck digging. Apparently 6/16 Saturday 7:12 AM PDT / -1.6 ft at Pillar Point Harbor is good- weekend, not ungodly early and after sunrise, not terribly cold, and don’t have to rent a boat.

But, looking at the CA Department of Fishes and Wildlife webpage, it says that fishing for clam is yellow status right now:

The California Department of Public Health advises consumers not to eat bivalve shellfish such as clams (and mussels, scallops, etc.) taken from Sonoma, Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and San Mateo county beaches.

Does anyone know the reason? Domoic acid?

Some other people who has dug at Pillar Point:

Thumbs up for harvesting your own vittles!!!

Don’t have a reason for the shellfish warning. Since I was a pier rat targeting shiners with a dropline anchored with a rock sinker, there had always been warnings about consuming your hard earned catch. Catch n’ Release was still a concept in the far distant future.

Less than a week ago, my SO asked me about the signage along a shoreline warning against eating certain critters. We had a fun discussion about the food chain, apex predators, toxicity buildup, etc.

At my current catch rate (zero for 2017/2018), any hapless striper, sturgeon (legal), finned creature that falls for my presentation is gonna be enjoyed with gusto.

Clamming at Pillar Point. The area around that giant golf ball (Mavericks area) is great. At a low tide, one can walk out for what seems like miles of freshly exposed seascape. Harvesting aside, just sloshing through the terrain is Jurassic’ish.

At the right times, sea urchins are in abundance. Mussels for the taking. Just remember, mussels cannot be harvested with any implements, don’t be caught with a screwdriver or tire iron. Don’t fall for the “bigger is better fallacy”. Medium size mussels taste better. Oh, pick up some periwinkles while you’re at it, very Steinbeck’ish. :).

Anyone participating (over 16yo?) must have a CA fishing license. Ez to get online. Hard copy will be sent to your mailing address, you may print a temp license for immediate use.

Please report back on your catch!! I need to break out my knee boots/waders and gather some seafood!!!

** get some cheap knee pads at your preferred home improvement store. :).

If its just the standard warning about consuming raw seafood, I wouldn’t worry about it. I looked again and there is a phone number. I will call when I have a moment and see if I can find out more information.

That’s great to know. I hadn’t clammed at Pillar Point so its good to know specific location. Urchin? Uni on the wharf it is! I know some guy selling urchin at Pillar Point, though I didn’t know the urchins are right there.

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Caution: I think some of these areas are part of a marine sanctuary area., and all of the things mentioned are covered under fish and wildlife laws.

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Very good point. The MPA boundaries do change, and it is up to the fisherman to know the current boundaries. We were last out at Mavericks about 5 years ago poke-poling for monkeyface eels, and the area immediate was open to recreational fishing. Better check to be that the area you plan to fish is not a protected area.

If not accessible, there are usually some boats offering local catch on fair weathered weekends. Not much during the weekdays.

My wife loves the New Day. They catch shrimp in Alaska, and immediately flash freeze them on the boat within minutes of capture. We eat them raw, Thai style and they are as good as live. The smaller Coonstripes are usually around $12/lb, the larger Spots around $20/lb. They are head-off.

The uni guy is there on weekends about 30% of the times when we go on weekends.

You could download the fishline app. The app is not always to the minute, but will give you a good idea of what fish are available and where.

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Goggle, I used to collect mussels in the area I think you described. About 6-8 years ago, my area was declared a marine sanctuary.

Have you harvested in your area lately?

I remember the pier kids, I liked them, vs the wharf rats. I didn’t like the wharf rates.

I often saved old sabikis for the kids fishing.

There is an urchin fisherman, often fishes the Farallons.

We’ve not fished or much of anything the last few years. I was having acute back pains, which made getting out of bed a challenge, let alone rock hopping for food. Fortunately, my doctor diagnosed my problem as a form of arthritis. Now I take that miracle drug, Acetaminophen, and problem solved. Sorry, I digress.

With my (good as) new back, I need to get out more to gather some food. Always a great time, successful or not.

I think I have a picture of the guy upthread. Is that him?

I don’t remember his name, but I thought he fished a 26’ Radon, grey colored, the picture you posted looks like a Farallon

The fisherman told stories about diving for urchins, and a great white would cruise by.

In my experience, the closures during periods of rain, are due to E. coli.

Domicile acid is from warm water temperatures that enable certain food chain to thrive, thus feeding the local population.

The movie, The Birds, was based on a real incident, caused by red tide, or domeic acid.

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Maybe Tom Kendrick’s? Was the guy I knew.

Didn’t know any of the captains personally, just casual conversation and shooting the breeze.

years ago, I am fishing commercial albacore. I am in Ketch Joanne’s after midnight, getting ready to leave, I meet this guy who, that day, swam with great white sharks while harvesting urchins at the Farallon Islands.

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I dug through my notes and here’s what I wrote down about the guy selling uni at HMB when I read about him somewhere else:

Half moon bay, Sea Urchin by John, $7/lb.

Got a phone number too if anyone wants.

From the CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife:

So I think staying south of Maverick’s Beach its ok.

From their website:

Boundary: This area is bounded by the mean high tide line and straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed except where noted:

Permitted/Prohibited Uses:

It is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource for recreational and/or commercial purposes, with the following specified exceptions:
The recreational take of pelagic finfish by trolling, Dungeness crab by trap, and market squid by hand-held dip net is allowed.
The commercial take of pelagic finfish by troll or round haul net, Dungeness crab by trap, and market squid by round haul net, is allowed. Not more than five percent by weight of any commercial pelagic finfish or market squid catch landed or possessed shall be other incidentally taken species.

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I’ve been wanting to dig for the clams. I’m not sure they’re actually goeduck but something similar with a different name. I’d like to kept informed if you go out but it was in the news recently that some guy died eating mussels off the Sonoma Coast so I’d take the warnings seriously. Also, the big thing right now is an excess of red urchin, an invasive species that’s decimated the abalone population. Red urchin also are not edible in that they don’t really have anything inside of them worth eating. People are going out with big vacuums to vacuum them up. Don’t let anyone try to sell them to you.


I think you’re confusing red and purple urchins. Red urchins are the big ones from which we get uni. The smaller purple urchin is the problem species:

Both geoducks and the similar but smaller horseneck clams can be found around here, or at least they could be when I tried it back in the 1980s. Horsenecks were much more common, and easier to collect since they didn’t bury themselves as deeply as the geoducks. Still not exactly easy pickings - you have to dig through two or three feet of wet, muddy sand to get to them.

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I reached out to the California Department of Public Health regarding the health advisory around paralytic shellfish poisoning and domoic acid poisoning. Here’s the assessment on geoducks at Pillar Point:

Yes, geoduck clams are included in the current health advisory for San Mateo County. In fact they are really good at concentrating the PSP toxins and a huge concern when toxin is present. The advisory warns the public to avoid eating any bivalve shellfish, including mussels, clams, and scallops; the ‘clam’ category would include geoducks, littlenecks, etc.

Oh well, no digging shellfish for now, though everything else except rock crab is open for fishing.


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