With the re-opening of several State Parks beaches in San Luis Obispo County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds visitors to avoid disturbing small Pismo clams and rebury any small clams they encounter.
“We have not seen a population boom of this magnitude in decades,” said CDFW Marine Environmental Scientist Derek Stein. “We are hopeful that these young clams could increase the chances of a recreational fishery returning to the central coast.”
Pismo clams were once prolific along central coast beaches, supporting a vibrant recreational fishery. Due to overharvest, illegal removals and other environmental conditions, the fishery has not rebounded to historical levels. Although it is currently legal to harvest clams recreationally, almost no legal-sized clams have been found in recent years.
Pismo clams are frequently encountered by people walking along the beaches or digging in the sand. CDFW encourages the public to leave the clams in the sand to help the population expand. Any disturbed clams should be immediately reburied to increase the chance of survival. Beachgoers may also notice interesting round formations in clam beds. These formations are created by the clams as they expel sand from their siphons and are not caused by other human disturbances. However, the tidal flat environment is sensitive and beachgoers should do their best to avoid disturbing clam beds.
Pismo clams can be harvested with a valid fishing license. Anglers may retain 10 Pismo clams per day if the clams meet the minimum size of 5 inches in greatest diameter north of the San Luis Obispo/Monterey county line, and 4½ inches south of the county line. All undersized clams must be immediately reburied in the area they were found. In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the season for Pismo clams started Sept. 1 and ends after April 30. In all other counties, the season is open year-round. No commercial harvest is permitted.
With the help of the public, this once abundant and iconic central coast species can be protected. If you witness a poaching, wildlife trafficking or pollution incident, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted by texting to tip411 (847411). Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to tip411 by texting “CALTIP” followed by a space and the message.
Tips can also be reported through the free CalTIP smartphone app, which operates similarly to tip411 by creating an anonymous two-way conversation with wildlife officers. The CalTIP app can be downloaded via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.