An ultra-low full moon or a new moon tide says only one thing to the happy inhabitants of Clam Gulch, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula: 'time to go clam hunting'. The general store in nearby Ninilchik will fix you up with a fishing license (US$20), which also covers clamming, along with any other clam hunting equipment you might need. In fact, they'll fix you up with just about anything you need to track down and kill just about anything you might encounter in Alaska.
I'm after razor clams, the world's largest clams – a good one can stretch over 17cm (7in). Not only are they big, but they’re delicious, whether as the star ingredient in clam chowder or lightly fried and served with a squeeze of lemon.
With my license in my pocket, Gore-Tex on my back and boots on my feet, I was primed and ready for action when my clam hunting guide arrived to collect me on his four-wheeler, a fat-tired, four-wheeled bastard offspring of a motorcycle. Once we got to the beach, all I had to do was choose my tool: a clam shovel for digging them up, or a clam gun for shooting them.
Well, perhaps shooting isn't the right word for it - plunging is a better description. A clam gun is a metal tube with a plunger and is fairly easy to operate. First, you find the telltale sign of a razor clam, a small dimple in the sand, which indicates the clam is buried directly below. Then you center your clam gun over the dimple and push it straight down into the sand. Haul the gun out, expel the column of sand with the plunger and somewhere in the resulting mess should be one perfect razor clam. Repeat 60 times. That's your bag limit.
Once you've dug up or 'shot' your 60 clams, all you need to do is clean them and find a frying pan...
Tony Wheeler travelled to Alaska on assignment for Lonely Planet. You can follow his adventures on Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled, screening internationally on National Geographic.