LONG BEACH, Wash. - Thousands of clam diggers are expected to descend on Washington's coastal beaches this week now that the season's first morning razor clam dig has received approval.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced that it will proceed with plans to open all five state razor clam beaches for digging after a series of marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat.

Two beaches - Long Beach and Twin Harbors - will be open to clam digging on morning tides for four days, Wednesday through Saturday. The other three beaches, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch, Low morning tides during the upcoming opening are as follows:• Wednesday: 8:30 am / -0.6 ft.

• Thursday: 9:06 am / -0.5 ft.

• Friday: 9:43 am / -0.3 ft.

• Saturday: 10:22 am / 0.0 ft.will be open three days on morning tides Thursday through Saturday.

No clam digging will be allowed after noon at any beach, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, noting that morning digs in spring are always very popular.

"We've seen upwards of 30,000 clam diggers flock to coastal beaches in a single day during previous openings," Ayres said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we see that kind of turnout."

To dig razor clams, participants must have a valid 2004-05 shellfish/seaweed license, available from license vendors across the state and online at (http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov). WDFW will also sell licenses at the Willapa Bay Field Station (Nahcotta Lab) at 26700 Sandridge Road, Ocean Park, on the Long Beach Peninsula from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 6:30 a.m. until noon Saturday.

Legislation approved this year authorized WDFW to create new razor-clam-only licenses, but not until June 10. Those licenses will not be available for next week's dig.

Under state rules, harvesters are limited to 15 razor clams per day and must keep the first 15 they dig, regardless of size or condition. Each digger's limit must be kept in a separate container.

"Some beaches do have pockets of smaller clams," Ayres said. "We have some concerns about wastage, and diggers should know that WDFW will be enforcing the first-15-clams-dug rule."

For best results, Ayres recommends that people start digging at least one hour before low tide.


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