Stepping Out

"I’ll save readers some trouble: Those that don’t like the taste of clams, oysters, crab, or shrimp might as well turn the page. This column will be a waste of their time. They can go to the fridge and pull out some Cheez Whiz or little, canned sausages made of assorted meat products. Enjoy. Those who love shellfish, though, I will also direct elsewhere, to the Evergreen Pacific Shellfish Guide, authored by former Whidbey News-Times columnist J.D. Wade. It’s available at Ace Hardware in Oak Harbor or Freeland, and also at the Deception Pass Marina. You can even buy it from For a measly $16.95, Wade helps shellfish harvesters work their way through maps, messy regulations and many methods of harvest. Want to know how to shuck an oyster or clean a crab? Here’s where you can find out. Wade also includes a few recipes, which I cant vouch for. Most of them look to be safe, but hey, no guarantees. Anything that contains orange zest, for instance, you eat at your own risk. Wade even tells how to prepare a sea cucumber for the pot. I didn’t notice any recipes, though, that included the critter. That’s probably a good thing. The book’s strongest point, perhaps, is the use of clear maps showing harvest areas. One set of maps, for instance, illustrates year-round recreational crab fisheries in four colors, depicting zones where only a recreational harvest is allowed, and those that also serve as Limited Commercial Zones (along with dates), or Tribal Exclusive Zones (where only tribes can fish commercially, but others can fish recreationally). Most of the illustrations, charts and tables included in the book are well constructed. I especially liked inclusion of sewer outlets in the final group of beach maps. One item that confused me, though, was the “Where The Clams Are” table on page 16. Razor clams are shown in the medium to high tide zone, at a depth of about six to 10 inches. Earlier, Wade states that razor clams are always found below mean low low water, which means you can only harvest them during minus low tides. I had trouble reconciling the statement with the table. I guess that information isn’t critical, anyway. During one of the too rare openings, the eager clam digger only has to get to a proper beach (shown on page nine) and follow the crowds of people. The trouble will be digging the clams, and Wade certainly gives good instructions about that. Other good tips include how to purge mussels and clams of sand, how deep to place a pot while fishing for spot prawns, and when oysters are best to eat. If readers are looking for the eloquent prose that’s usually found in a guide published by Sasquatch Books or The Mountaineers, they might be disappointed. Readers will have to wrestle with phrases like “abundant numbers of crabs,” or three sentences in a row starting with the word “this.” Maybe this is just my personal problem I have an abundant number of problems, according to my wife, Jeanette. She’s waiting for people to ask her about them. The Shellfish Guide comes with a spiral binding, making it convenient to take on an outing. Get hold of a copy while you can — they’re disappearing like geoducks."

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