Retired businessman Bill Lackner loves to fish, dig clams and catch crabs “over and over, again and again.”
“I got interested in these activities when I was unable to work, and wrote a book about harvesting the amazing bounty from the marine environment common to the Oregon Coast,” says Lackner, founder of the Clam Diggers Association of Oregon. “The work included thousands of hours of research. The topics in the book, which in time became an encyclopedia, was too large to be published.”
Eventually, Lackner published four books: “Oregon’s Razor Clams,” “Oregon’s Clams,” Oregon’s Crabs” and “Oregon’s Rockfish.”
“Actually, the books are quite an accomplishment, but I wrote and published them, so I am biased,” says Lackner, who is an expert on anything “crabby or clammy.”
Since 2004, in conjunction with the agenda of the Clam Diggers Association of Oregon, Lackner has provided clamming/crabbing clinics at various bays along the Oregon Coast, including Siletz Bay in Lincoln City. His next two Siletz Bay clamming clinics are scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 12 and 26, and a crabbing clinic at 8 a.m. Sept. 22.
To give feet to his expertise, Lackner was asked to participate in The Driftwood Library’s Coastal Encounters Program.
“I accepted, and the rest is history,” he says. “I love sharing my knowledge with people. The smiling faces of the participants, especially the kids, are rewarding. It’s amazing to see the sense of awareness spread over them as they dig clams and share their experiences with the other clam diggers.”
Lackner says some 40 to 50 people usually attend his clinics at a time.
“We have had over 100 enthusiastic participants a half a dozen times and over 130 several times,” he says, “and the low count of four participants during the pounding rain.”
Clam digging clinics begin with a brief orientation at the Driftwood Public Library in Lincoln City, covering such topics as clam digging regulations, clam identification, and harvest, cleaning and cooking methods. The orientations last about 45 minutes before adjourning to dig clams.
Each clam digger 12 years or older will need a shellfish license, clam bag, shovel, five-gallon bucket and gloves. Also suggested are bottled water, a hand towel and a first aid kit containing bandages and hydrogen peroxide to treat and dress any cuts.
Crabbing clinic participants will meet at the pavilion at the end of SW 51st Street in the Historic Taft District of Lincoln City. Parking is available between Mo’s Restaurant and the pavilion. Each crabber is allowed to crab with up to three devices.
“Crab snares used with fishing poles work well, but not nearly as well as folding crab traps,” Lackner says.
Each crabber 12 years or older will need a shellfish license, crab traps, crab gauge, five-gallon bucket, large package of chicken legs for bait, and rubber gloves.
Everyone is welcome, and no registration is required for these events.
“People’s feedback is usually very positive,” Lackner says of the clinics. “There was one clam digger who was so impressed with the Purple Varnish clams that he purchased a home in Taft.”
For Lackner, the satisfaction of bringing a skill and the working knowledge of clamming and/or crabbing to people that results in a positive learning experience makes his time spent teaching worthwhile.
Safety is also a factor taken into account when crabbing and clamming, and Lackner says the state needs an invertebrate testing program as part of the Shell Fish Hotline program to ensure public safety and confidence in Oregon’s coastal waters.
“The Oregon Beach Monitoring Program should be a year-round program,” he says. “The state should have a program to report major sewage spills into Oregon’s state waters. The worst-case example of not reporting sewage spills into coastal waters occurred when a still unknown amount of sewage spilled into the Umpqua River. The amount of raw sewage was in the hundreds of thousands of gallons.”
At this time, the recreational harvest of bay clams and crab harvesting is open along the entire Oregon coast from the Columbia River to the California border, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.