Hard to believe, but Saturday was the last evening razor-clam opener of the season, and we didn’t want to miss it. Skyla was literally bouncing off the walls, stoked to dig, and then realized she had already committed to a dinner with friends that night. I was bummed she couldn’t go with us, but was also proud that she stuck to her word. Then Weston woke up not feeling well. And I was left to go it alone, perhaps an early preview of kids growing up and having lives of their own? With a twinge of sadness, I decided to roll anyway, and lucky for me, had plenty of friends to join the fun. That’s Honey, David and Sam Smart, and Doc hitting the beach early.
The dig started off slow, with a big swell pushing the wash up the beach and making it tough. We scratched out a few nice ones ahead of the tide, then, as it the water receded, it was on.
Nothing like good friends on a day at the beach. That’s Dan and Mia Sweeney and me for a quick, sandy-handed selfie. Dry weather, full daylight, no lanterns…what’s not to like?
Once the razors started to show, we filled our limits with big, fat, tasty clams in minutes. That’s Sweeney double checking the Smart boys’ count.
Finished the night at the Sweeneys for a team clam-cleaning session and more good times hanging out with friends. That’s Sweeney and Smarty (with Hefty-sack wrapped wrist he broke to avoid having to clean clams) waiting for the watched pot to boil. I missed the kids, but ended up having a fantastic time anyway. Love this crew.
Sometimes the best foraging is right at home–in this case, in the very back of the freezer. I was digging around for razor clams to cook for Christmas dinner and came up with a long-lost package of hot-smoked king salmon bellies from 2015. September 2015, to be more exact, meaning they were more than a year old. I thawed ’em out and, incredibly, they were delicious. Perfect. Still firm, still dripping with fat, still smoky and salty and awesome.
And looking at the date, I remembered fishing Willapa Bay with my good friend Sweeney, and how the pelicans posed on pilings outside the harbor that morning, and how the sky turned black with sooty shearwaters in the evening. And how we had to scratch to find our kings, and how stoked we were when we put a couple nice ones in the box. Amazing what you can find in the back of the freezer.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, the arrival of spring means different things for different people. For some, it’s the dusting of cedar and maple pollen that covers our cars. For others, it’s blooming tulips or the sound of tree frogs at night. But for me, spring isn’t really here until we’re on the Columbia River, chasing springers, and ideally, eating them. But first things first.
We spent a fantastic couple of days chasing springers on the Mighty Columbia last week. It was supposed to be three days, but the state closed the season a day early to keep us under the harvest quota. But we made the most of our time on the water. I was lucky to have a great crew of good friends on board–that’s Sweeney (on the left, trying to figure out how anyone–I won’t mention any names–could snarl a flasher so badly), Justin and Kate getting to work on the luxurious, expansive deck of the Lyla-Kai above. And more good friends–Smarty, Neal, John Wright–on the water around us.
We also found some decent action, although we had to work for our fish. That’s another hatchery springer about to hit the net above.
Kate battled an 800 pound bull sea lion–that grabbed a fish she was fighting–for almost forty minutes. She cranked like hell, I tried to cork him off from breathing with the boat (so he’d let go of her fish), and Sweeney and Crump directed traffic. The whole circus act took us spinning all the way across the river and way downstream. Eventually, the sea lion released the fish, Kate reefed it to the boat, and we landed what was left. Not much to eat there.
Thankfully, we brought five whole ones to the boat in two afternoons of fishing, and I got to spend many hours with good friends in gorgeous weather. In shorts and flip-flops! In Washington in April! Man, that was fun. That’s Sweeney with a couple of nice ones above. I love spring. Stay tuned for the most important part of the whole springer experience–the eating. I love springers! <first, third and sixth photos, courtesy of Kate Taylor>