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#200047 - 04/12/10 07:32 PM Shellfish - West Coast
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2731
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I recently had a few days of R&R on the West Coast (some call it the "Left Coast"), specifically on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

Spent a lot of time puttering along the beaches with DW, who loves flipping big rocks to see who's living underneath. At low tide, there was everything from crabs and snails to juvenile eel-like fish and sizeable oysters. Clams too. And all sorts of invertebrates (polykeet (sp?) worms etc.).

In other words, food for the taking. Lots of it. (Hey, I'm a guy, if I can't eat it, burn it, or snuggle up, what's the point?) But there were also permanent "red tide" warning signs in the sheltered bays.

Anybody out there on the tidal flats, scrounging up free chow? Stories welcome, and wisdom appreciated.

Edited by dougwalkabout (04/12/10 07:39 PM)

#200048 - 04/12/10 08:21 PM Re: Shellfish - West Coast [Re: dougwalkabout]
benjammin Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4020
Loc: Anchorage AK
Many, many moons ago, I used to frequent my grandparents' beachfront out in Vaughn Bay between Bremerton and Shelton. Out in the bay, there was always an over-abundance of shellfish. We regularly harvested steamer clams, horse clams, goeduck, spider crab, oysters, and mussels. In fact, it was so plentiful that most of the time we considered such morsels scrap, and would use them instead as bait for catching bullhead sculpin, which were basically worthless, but a good way to pass the time.

We seldom worried about red tide, relying on advice from Grandpa whether or not to eat anything we dug up. We were even less concerned with any sort of license requirements, being reckless kids on what was essentially a very isolated beach that had been homesteaded a hundred years earlier by the great-grandparents.

Unfortunately, I no longer visit the beach, and if I were, my concern about red tide would pre-empt any desire to harvest any shellfish there now. It's such a shame, I just didn't realize back then how good I had it.

Back in the day, you could dig a hole in the mud 3 feet in diameter and 18" deep and literally harvest 12 dozen steamer clams.

I am very skeptical about harvesting and eating any shellfish nowadays. Unless it's been tested, I no longer consider it safe. I've seen one too many cases of paralytic poisoning to ever want to take the chance.

I don't eat foogoo either, for much the same reason.
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

#200051 - 04/12/10 08:37 PM Re: Shellfish - West Coast [Re: benjammin]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
I have lived out in the PNW since I was a young kid, and have mixed feelings about clamming and gathering food on the inland beaches or out on the Pacific Coast - I see alot of folks out with their families, having a great time, pulling up their quotas, good for them. I've also seen an a-hole or two filling a 5 gallon bucket with dozens of clams over their quota, and unfortunately calling the authorities doesn't get much of a response, the one time the F&W guy showed up in time he was driving up the beach and the a-hole spilled his bucket into the surf, evidence washed away. I'd like to think maybe they need the food to eat, but mostly they are razor clams, a 15 quota will get you a good meal with friends but won't really put food on the table. Most likely the clams end up on some restaurant's menu or sold from the back of the guy's truck (oh yeah, these are the guys who drive on the beach; before Gov Dixie Lee Ray we didn't allow driving on beaches, now they do it to make the beaches more accessible to those with disabilities, however these yahoos don't have any disabilities I can see, physical anyway - but I digress...)

I don't know what the policy is on harvesting beaches up on Vancouver Island, that's Canada, and the red tide signs might be legit or they might be someone's way of keeping some of the harvest on the beach to reproduce, overharvesting can be a problem. Red tides are serious stuff, most of it from local pollution etc - too many septic systems too close to the shore if you ask me. In Washington we share beaches with indigenous people, who have harvested seafood from beaches for thousands of years, and they have the right to do so still, no worries from me. If you find yourself back that way I would ask some locals if the red tide is current, if it is then eat at a restaurant, they'll get their clams from somewhere safe, if not get a permit or license and a clam gun and eat up, there's lots of good nutrition on the beach.

#200053 - 04/12/10 09:10 PM Re: Shellfish - West Coast [Re: dougwalkabout]
Teslinhiker Offline

Registered: 12/14/09
Posts: 1383
I agree with Ben. Red Tide is a real and dangerous problem and I would never advise anyone to eat any seafood that is under a ban. That being said, every year there are some who disregard the ban and end up in the hospital deadly ill. Just a couple of weeks ago we seen some nice mussels on the shoreline but without knowing if there was a Red Tide ban, the mussels lived another day, otherwise they would of made a nice dinner...

Unfortunately Red Tide is here to stay, however with caution taken by harvesting out on large tidal areas with no ban and away from sheltered bays and backwaters, shellfish can still be safely harvested and enjoyed. If you were ever stranded on the coast and there was no Red Tide, you would never go hungry due to the fish, shellfish and vegetation available
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

John Lubbock

#200062 - 04/13/10 12:59 AM Re: Shellfish - West Coast [Re: Teslinhiker]
scafool Offline

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 1534
Loc: Muskoka
I assume by polychaetes you mean the clam worms.
They really are nasty looking little beggars, especially when they stick out their fangs.
Some people recommend them as fish bait but I found the stinking pile worms worked better.

Red tide only affects the clams, not the crabs.
The clams concentrate the poison and depending on the type of clam they can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning for a long time after the Red Tide is over.

20 years ago they used to track the red tide blooms and issue warnings for the areas it appeared in.
It seems the Ministry of Fisheries still does it.
Here is a site.

I am certain they also have a page explaining what red tide is.
The warning sign of tingling lips is not something you can trust either.

There are other problems beside red tide though. There are lots of places where the shellfish beds have been contaminated by pollution.

One of my favourite seafoods while I was there was sea urchins.
Urchins graze on seaweed so they are not affected by red tide.
You find them just below the low tide level.
By now it is likely illegal to harvest them because of overfishing (Asian market?).
There are 5 fingers of roe in them clinging to the inside of the shell. The rest of the mess inside them is just water and seaweed to be dumped out.
To me they taste somewhat like strawberry and lemon raw but just like scrambled eggs cooked. I prefer them raw.

Octopus was another real treat.

Vancouver Island is good for the Dungeness crabs too.
You can get them by setting a crab pot at low tide and checking it when the tide goes out again.
I have even had crabs grab onto my fishing line when fishing on a beach for sole. There are size limits so you need to measure and release the ones that are too small.

There are a lot of fish besides salmon. Many of them are easily caught from shore. Ling cod, greenling and rockfish are all good catches. There are other sculpins like red irish lord that are good and of course there are flatfish like flounder, sole and of course halibut. (but for halibut you really need a boat to fish effectively)
The small sharks are good eating too, the one they call the dogfish.
I understand there are more mackerel appearing on the west coast now.

In the spring there is a herring run and there are smelt runs too.
Herring are jigged for with small white jigs that are almost like fly fishing flies. You usually have 4 or more tied to your line above a weight and jig vertically. Sometimes you can get a herring on each hook each time you drop the line in.
One part of the herring fishery is for the herring roe.
When the run is on the herring eggs glue themselve to seaweed or anything else in the water.
People sometimes hang tree branches in the water to collect the roe on.

Smelt, oolichan and anchovies are often caught on the beaches with smelt nets.

Bull kelp makes nice pickles, there are other seaweeds that are like the stuff from Japan. (Sea lettuce, rockweed)

If I start talking about forest produce like berries, roots, fruits and mushrooms I could write another chapter.
So I will stop now.

May set off to explore without any sense of direction or how to return.

#200063 - 04/13/10 01:02 AM Re: Shellfish - West Coast [Re: Teslinhiker]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6693
Loc: southern Cal
I have hung out on the Channel Islands (off the Pacific Coast opposite Santa Barbara, not the ones obstructing the English Channel) for the past twenty-five years, working as an archaeologist. The islands are characterized by massive and numerous shell middens (piles of shell and other living debris). Abalone and mussel, among other species, have been on the menu for a long time. The earliest midden on the islands is more than 11,000 years old.

Basically, the table is set from Vancouver Island down to southern California. Early inhabitants who had crossed the Bering Strait merely had to move south from tide pool to tide pool until they reach balmy southern climes. There is growing evidence that this is at least one of the ways that people got into the New World.

The utility of tide pools continues today. In 1964, the Navy forgot about a party of archaeologist they had transported to San Miguel Island. Sending a plane out four days late, they found that the group had exhausted their regular food, but were subsisting nicely on tide pool abalone.

I have long thought that the islands would be an ideal location for finding easy survival food. Just wait for the tide to go out and eat your fill. Red tide is a problem here as well, although it primarily an issue in the summer. I believe it is mostly an issue with filter feeders (mussel), not necessarily all shell fish.

The abundant resources present on the islands are not found normally on the mainland. The tide pools there are pretty well hammered.
Geezer in Chief

#200098 - 04/13/10 09:38 PM Re: Shellfish - West Coast [Re: hikermor]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2731
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Wow, great stories. Much appreciated by this prairie boy dipping his toe in the vast ocean.

My understanding is that abalone and crab are not affected by red tide. Does that sound right to you?

Also, I noticed that cormorants spent a lot of time working the water not too far offshore -- certainly close enough to reach with a crude raft.

And, ducks and gulls were irresistably drawn to a spot where a fresh creek flowed into the bay. Bathing mostly, but possibly feeding too?

#200108 - 04/13/10 11:29 PM Re: Shellfish - West Coast [Re: dougwalkabout]
EMPnotImplyNuclear Offline

Registered: 09/10/08
Posts: 327
Non-Traditional Vectors for Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning
However, there have been reports of PSP toxins in abalone off the northwest coast of Spain [83, 148–149] and the west and south coasts of South Africa [150].

It doesnt say what they cost, but there is a

#200110 - 04/13/10 11:38 PM Re: Shellfish - West Coast [Re: dougwalkabout]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6693
Loc: southern Cal
Originally Posted By: dougwalkabout

My understanding is that abalone and crab are not affected by red tide. Does that sound right to you?

That is my understanding. But abalone are off the menu right now. Over harvesting and disease have drastically reduced their numbers down here. Twenty five year ago there were tide pools with abalone piled up three deep, in densities exceeding 100 animals per square meter.

We have affected the ocean very badly, although there are signs that things may be looking up.
Geezer in Chief

#200137 - 04/14/10 12:25 PM Re: Shellfish - West Coast [Re: hikermor]
MDinana Offline

Registered: 03/08/07
Posts: 2184
Loc: Deep south... Carolina
out here in "Tidewater" Virginia (aka, Hampton Roads) it's apparently legal to go crabbing without a permit. There's a park down the road where folks go and pick up fresh crab.

Thinking about it now, maybe I found just the thing to do today... being kind of bored and on a day off.


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