What "NA-ICE" Really Means: Harvesting Shellfish In Winter

Harvesting shellfish is a hard job.

Now, imagine harvesting shellfish in winter...

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Single digit air temperatures... 35º water temperatures... The risk of your boat getting stuck out in the water...

These are all considerations shellfish harvesters have to think about doing their jobs.

Around this time of year, customers tend to see more "NA-ICE" on our price lists, and that is because many of our suppliers are battling icy and potentially dangerous conditions. For the harvesters that are willing to bare the extreme cold, they still have to break through the ice to get to their oysters.

Some use their boats to blaze a trail...

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And others use a power saw...

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To each their own! And even if our harvesters can get access to shellfish, sometimes the air may be so cold that it freezes the product once out of the water.

At the end of the day, we owe a huge thank you to our harvesters and growers for weathering cold winds and treading through frigid waters to supply product to our customers. We ask for our customers' patience and understanding because harvesting shellfish is a hard and unpredictable job.

Hear Ben's firsthand experience dealing with ice or scroll through the photos below to see some Canadian ice fishing in action. Leave a comment below to thank all of our shellfish fishermen, and we'll make sure to pass them on personally!

Photo compliments of Five Star Shellfish and Indian Cove Aquaculture

When Are Razor Clams Available and How To Check the Tides

Many of our customers ask, "Do you have any razor clams available today?"

The short answer is, it depends on the tide. Lori explains, "[Harvesters] actually shove their hands into the mud just to grab the clams and do them one by one. So it's a little bit of an arduous task. The tides do have to be either negative or particularly low, and they have to fall in daylight hours."

Customers can check when razor clams may become available by looking at tide charts. US Harbors has a great site that covers tide charts all along the US coasts. Here is an example of a tide chart:

Example of a tide chart from USHarbors.com showing tide schedule in Cape Cod Canal, East Sandwich.

Example of a tide chart from USHarbors.com showing tide schedule in Cape Cod Canal, East Sandwich.

What To Look for in the Tide Chart

To identify potential razor clam harvest times, check for 0.0 to negative tides under the "Low" column. Then, see the corresponding times and make sure they are within daylight hours outlined under the columns with the sun.

Remember, it takes diggers some time to harvest these bad boys, so one hour before sunset will not be enough time. A good example of potential razor clam availability is December 6-8, Fri - Sun. You can see on the chart that these tides are negative, low tide is after sunrise, and there is plenty of time before sunset to give the harvesters time to dig.

But there are also other considerations besides the tide!

Weather conditions tend to be the primary culprit. Sometimes it can be too windy or there may be an impending storm that will change the optimal time for harvesting. It can be a bit unpredictable, so we HIGHLY recommend to our customers to use razor clams as a special rather than an everyday menu item due to irregular supply.

Make sure to check the location of the tide charts because every area has a different tide schedule. If you want to learn more, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife has a great article that explains the process and terminology.

Think you got what it takes to harvest your own? Watch this man dig!

Source: The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and The Seattle Times