All the other Tillamook Bay Clams


Last time we talked about the cockle, the lazy man’s bay clam. Next we’ll discuss the other types of bay clams, the ones for which you have to dig. As promised, at the end of this article is the method for cleaning cockles along with my favorite recipe for them.



Gaper clams produce the largest clam show. Often, their necks are visible within the show, as in this picture. The best way to learn how to dig gapers is to watch someone else do it. Click HERE to watch one of the best!

Littlenecks are simply smaller gapers and are found and harvested using the same method as for gapers.






Butter and bay clam shows are usually described as long and narrow,

as if a  flat head screwdriver were stuck in the bay bottom.


As you saw in the video above, you want to dig AROUND the show,

not straight down on top of it. While a clam with a broken shell is still

good, it can be VERY sharp and dangerous.


Dig carefully: Think about your technique for digging clams. Many species are easily broken, causing a dangerous situation for your fingers and additional cleaning work. Many diggers prefer to dig close to the depth of the clam and then do the remaining work carefully with their hands.


As promised in the last installment, I’ll go over readying your cockles for eating and share with you my favorite recipe for Clinocardium nuttallii, or “heart cockle”, named for the sort of vague heart shape of the cockle.




First off, let’s clean the cockles. This is a lot simpler & easier than you might think, as long as you’re patient. Simply put your cockles in a big bucket of SALT water. Some people say bay water, some say FRESH water, but if I’m wanting my cockle to clean ITSELF out, why not start with fresh, salty water?


Leave the cockles alone for about 12 hours. Then dump them out, rinse them and the bucket thoroughly, then put them back in the bucket with some more fresh water. Leave them alone again and in about another 12 hours, they will have flushed out all the sand they carry. Voila, clean cockles!


For the next step, you’ll need to whisk together a little milk and an egg.  You’ll also need some cracker meal, which you can usually find near the corn meal in your local grocery. Put about ¼ inch of oil (I prefer refined canola oil) in a frying pan and heat it up to just below the smoke point (around 325 degrees).


Grab a rag or towel and get a firm grasp on your cockle. I find that a straight-blade screwdriver works pretty well for popping them open. So, pop open your cockle. Remove the top shell with a quick twist. Dredge the bottom shell with the cockle in it in the milk/egg mixture and press it down in the cracker meal. CAREFULLY place this in the oil, shell side up. In about 10 minutes, you’ll have a perfectly steamed cockle with a crisp layer of cracker meal on top. I like a few dashes of hot sauce on mine.


If you find you’re having trouble getting the cockles open, try this little trick. Put the cockles in a pan and dump boiling water over the cockles. Let them sit for about 30 seconds, then dump the hot water out. Then cover the clams with cold water. They’re not cooked, but it will make them easier to open.
















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