The Pismo Clam
The Pismo Clam is one of the largest types of clams found along the California Coast. The clams can grow up to seven inches, if not interfered with by hungry clammers and sea otters. Legal size is 4 1/2 inches in diameter; and the proper place to clam is south of Grand Avenue (south of Pismo Beach).
Clams take approximately five years to reach legal size; growing about 3/4 of an inch each year. As clams approach ten years of age, they seldom grow more than 1/8 of an inch per year. The largest living Pismo Clam on record is 7 3/8 inches, however the clam shell on display in the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce is 8 inches in diameter.
During high tide, the clam is covered with water and can be found just under the sand's surface with it's siphon extended to the surface. Water taken in through the siphon, passes over the gills where food particles are removed and digested. The water is then expelled through the siphon. A 3 inch clam filters an average of 5,800 gallons of water per year. This amount of water contains approximately 3.88 ounces of food; thus clams are very light eaters.
How To Clam
Before you clam you must obtain a salt-water fishing license, which can be purchased at K-Mart (Arroyo Grande), Longs Drugs (Pismo Beach) and Gotta Go Fish'n (Pismo Beach). Clamming is permitted year-round. You will also need a clam fork and a measuring device called a "caliper"; normally the caliper is attached to the clam fork. If you do not use a clam fork, you can use a modified rake, or any utensil that has prongs a foot or so long.
The limit for clamming is ten clams per day per person. It is a good idea to bring a bucket and fill it with sea water, not fresh water; the clams once in the bucket, will purge themselves of any impurities and will open slightly. This will allow you to remove them from their shells more easily. If you try to remove them from their shells when they are closed, you will quickly learn where the expression "Clam Up" came from.
According to state law: Clams must measure 4 1/2" in diameter before they can be taken. Undersized clams must be replaced in the very same hole that they were taken from. A saltwater fishing license is required. The annual fee for a saltwater license is approximately $14.20, and a day pass is about $8.40. The licenses are issued by the Department of Fish and Game. Clams may be taken only between a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset. The limit for clamming is 10 clams per day per person. Those caught not adhering to any of these guidelines, will be subject to heavy fines. Change: Fee is now $44.85 or a 1-day fee is $14.30. (Reduced fees for Low Income Native Americans, Senior Citizens, and Disabled Veterans)