Digging Razor Clams in Polly Creek + Video

One of our favorite Alaskan activities is digging razor clams!  Alaska’s Razor Clams are commonly found along sandy beaches of Cook Inlet.  They are the best tasting clams we have ever eaten and their meat has a succulent sweetness which is normally reserved for crabs.

Alaska Razor ClamsRazor Clams are technically a marine bivalve mollusc, with a siphon, neck, foot and shell.  Their shell is rather thin and range in size from your thumb to larger than a grown man’s hand.  Razor Clams live on the sandy intertidal beaches of Cook Inlet in Southcentral Alaska.  They are harvested on minus tides cycles and there are usually a few good days every month.

The State of the Clams

Fishing regulations change all the time in Alaska, make sure you know the regs before you fish. Clamming is considered fishing.
Fishing regulations change all the time in Alaska, make sure you know the regs before you fish. Clamming is considered fishing.

In recent years, Razor Clam populations on the west side of the Kenai Peninsula (east side of Cook Inlet) have been in a gradual state of decline.  I’m no expert, but some say there were storms that disrupted the reproduction cycle while others will probably blame it on global warming.  A local biologist would be able to give you a more accurate answer.  Alaska Fish and Game has kept a close eye on the populations and put measures in place to protect the fishery.  They started by reducing daily catch limits from 60 to 25, then closed some beaches, and currently razor clam digging is completely closed on the road system.

There is a place…

Not to worry, you can make a run across Cook Inlet to Polly Creek.  Only being accessible by boat or plane has kept the clam beds healthy and bountiful.  The best parts about going to Polly Creek are there is NO LIMIT and the clams are HUGE!

Miles of sandy beaches are exposed at low tide.
Miles of sandy beaches are exposed at low tide.

There are plenty of clamming beaches on the west side of Cook Inlet, but Polly Creek has been a local’s favorite for decades.  People will fly in from all around Southcentral Alaska and Ninilchik is a popular launching point for boats.

There is a catch that can ruin your day at best and will kill you at worst, the tides.  With a mean of 3o feet, Cook Inlet is home to the fourth largest tidal range in the world.  That is a lot of water and it moves quick, the last place you want to be is stuck on the clam beds without a boat when the tide starts rolling back in.



Ninilchik is a small town on the Sterling Highway with a rich history.  It’s hard to put into words, but Ninilchik has always been a happy place for us.  The views are priceless, the beach is fun, and we can ride our ATV everywhere.

We have a couple of favorite places to camp in Ninilchik, Deep Creek State Recreation Area and Deep Creek View Campground.  We love staying at both places, there is something nice about staying right on the beach, but having electricity and wifi is awesome.

John and Joan Smart own Deep Creek View Campground and J&J Smart Charters.  We first met them in 2010, Rebecca and I were exploring the side roads of Ninilchik and stumbled upon an awesome campground up on the bluffs.  The views are amazing and the rates are only a little higher than boondocking on the beach.  They conveniently run fishing charters right from the campground and there are fish cleaning tables for the guests to use.  This comes in handy when you have bucket loads of clams.

Ninilchik is also home to Salmonfest, an annual Alaskan music festival that takes over the fairgrounds and town.  Our clamming trip was during Salmonfest and their campground was booked so we decided to stay down on the beach.  Much to our surprise we found some of our blogging friends camping down there!

Getting Underway

The following morning we met John down at the tractor launch and headed across the inlet.  They use a unique method to launch boats in Ninilchik, a tractor hooks up to the trailer and backs the boat down the beach to launch the boat.  The water dictates how fast you can make the run across the inlet, if its smooth boats will cruise at 30+ mph, if the water is choppy you might be bouncing along in the teens.

Waiting for the tide to roll out.
Waiting for the tide to roll out.

Once you drop anchor at the clam beds the waiting game begins.  Minute by minute the landscape changes, I made a really cool time-lapse a couple of years ago.  Before you know it, the boat is sitting high and dry on the beach.  John sets out a ladder to make it easier to climb out of the boat and a rinsing bin to clean the sand off your clams.

The Digging

Razor Clams taste great, but digging them is a workout and labor of love.  We feel the work is well worth it, one trip yields enough meat to make amazing meals all year-long.  If you have never gone clam digging before you will have to choose between a clam gun or a clam shovel, we use a gun.  I don’t think one is better than the other, it all comes down to personal preference.

With our clam gun and buckets in hand we headed off looking for the show.  The show is the mark or abnormality in the sand made by a clam indicating its location, most of the time it looks like a dimple, sometimes a crater, and others will squirt and pulse.  Once you find a show you start digging.  The gun has a handle with a little hole, line up the show with the clam gun and push it into the sand, cover up the hole on the handle to create a vacuum, then pull the gun and sand out of the hole, and repeat until you find the clam.  Some clams are deep and some are shallow, some will even escape from you because they can dig pretty fast.  Occasionally you will damage the clam while digging, make sure you keep it because it’s the law.  Broken clams are completely edible, they just take a little longer to clean.

If it sounds like I am speaking a foreign language, we made a video of our experience.

Cleaning Clams

Now the real work begins, cleaning them!  Upon your return from a clam digging trip to Polly Creek you will have bucket loads of clams and they don’t clean themselves.  It can be tedious, but when you combine it with your drink of choice and some good friends it almost becomes fun.

We blanch our clams in hot water to release them from the shells and then start cleaning.  I’m not even going to try putting this part into words, Rebecca does a great job of showing you how to clean a razor clam in this video.


Yes, we have finally reached the best part of the day.  After all that work digging and cleaning clams you get to reward yourself with eating them, we like to have a clam fry.  We made a video of how we fry clams, but it is really easy.

  • Drain standing water from clams.
  • Season the clams, be creative!
  • Dredge clams in flour.
  • Dredge in beaten eggs.
  • Dredge in a 50/50 mix of flour and crackers (Saltines Ritz, Pilot Bread, etc,).
  • In a skillet, heat your oil of choice, place clams in skillet when oil is ready.
  • Flip once when breading is nicely browned, clams cook fast and are usually cooked in perfect time with the breading.
  • Remove to a plate with a towel when the other side has browned.  Lightly sprinkle with a little sea salt at this time.
  • Consume with your choice of dipping sauce; tartar, cocktail, or get creative with some mayonnaise.

The Experience

There are certain experiences you really shouldn’t pass up [especially if you already live in Alaska] and finding your way out to Polly Creek is on that list. We would like to thank J&J Smart Charters for showing us a great time clam digging.  If you are looking for a nice place to camp or would like to book a salmon, halibut, or clam digging charter across Cook Inlet give John and Joan a call, they are great people.

J&J Smart Charters



If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our blog in the side box above.  You can also follow our adventures on Facebook & YouTube.

Although this trip was sponsored, our opinions are genuine and not for sale.  

The Summer RV Bloggers Took On Alaska!

The summer of 2015 will forever be known as the summer fulltime RV bloggers took on Alaska.

Spending the day with the Wynns.
Spending the day with the Wynns.

We are no strangers to the fast paced Alaskan summers and 2015 hasn’t been any different.  Juggling guests, fishing, new adventures and the ever valuable personal downtime has become an art after living in Alaska for 7 years. [Read more…]

Taking Kids Fishing In Alaska + Video

Alaska is one of the best places in the world to take kids fishing!  The beautiful surroundings and increased odds of catching fish leave a lasting impression.

Our fishing partners for the day, Nicole & Wyatt.
Our fishing partners for the day, Nicole & Wyatt.

Most anglers will tell you their passion for fishing started at a young age.  In our fast paced world, disconnecting from smartphones, tablets, and video game players is important for both children and adults.  My earliest fishing memories are in the mountain lakes of San Diego with my Dad and San Diego Bay with my Grandpa.  These lasting memories are the reason why it is important to take kids fishing.  Whether you live in Alaska or are just visiting, the sooner you can introduce them to fishing the better.

Why is Alaska one of the best places to take kids fishing?

Kids need to catch fish!  Alaska has some of the best fishing in the world and the odds of reeling in a fish are very high.  Some kids don’t have the patience to sit for hours waiting for a bite, so make sure you take them to a highly productive fishery.

Our fishing partners for the week!

Wyatt's Large Mouth Bass caught in California.
Wyatt’s Large Mouth Bass caught in California.

Our good friends, Russ and Kristine came up for a visit this summer and they brought their kids Nicole and Wyatt.  They are a very active outdoors family and go camping and fishing on a regular basis.  The “Force Is Strong” with these kids, Wyatt has already had his picture in a fishing newspaper.

This was their second trip to Alaska and it was hard to tell if the adults or kids were more excited to get out fishing!  We decided to go camping at the South Rolly Campground in the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area.  This peaceful little place is about 30 minutes north of Wasilla and one of our favorites.  There are no ATV’s or gas motorboats allowed so things stay nice and quiet.  If you are coming on a weekend it might be tough to get one of the few waterfront campsites though.  Waterfront or not, it is still a great place to camp.

Scouting Trips

Unless you are taking a fishing charter, the kids are depending on your skills.  If you are not an experienced angler or are visiting unfamiliar waters, I’m giving you permission to go fishing without the kids.  This little bit of time to sharpen your skills will make their experience all the better.

The first night (after bedtime for the kids) Russ and I took the kayaks out fishing.  After a long day of flying from California, renting an RV in Anchorage, and driving a couple hours to the campground Russ finally felt like he was on vacation!  In the land of the midnight sun we started fishing around 10pm and stayed out past midnight.

Northern Pike are an invasive species, but are fun to catch.
Northern Pike are an invasive species, but fun to catch.

This could have been called a “guys fishing trip”, but for the record we were scouting the waters to increase the odds of the kids catching fish.  The trip went great, we both caught northern pike and found some elusive trout.  The trout were jumping everywhere except on our hooks.  Actually they would hit the line as it laid in the water, not our lures.


Russ's first Northern Pike.
Russ’s first Northern Pike.


We threw almost every kind of hardware we had at them; Kastmasters, SuperDuper Spoons, Panther Martin Spinners, small Rapalas.  These trout wanted nothing to do with our lures, they were feeding on flies and we didn’t have flies or fly rods.  We needed to change our technique, starting with buying some flies tomorrow.

A rainy day we will never forget!

The next morning it was raining and less than favorable conditions to take the kids fishing.  We decided it was a good day to take a drive to Talkeetna.  What should have been an uneventful one hour drive turned out to be a terrifying experience.  While driving down the Talkeetna Spur Rd. we witnessed a moose run into the road and get T-boned by a motorcyclist.  Fortunately, the rider was expected to recover from the injuries and the moose ran into the woods.  The scene was very intense.

Seward's Folly!
Seward’s Folly!

Still shaken from the prior events, we spent some time walking around Talkeetna and visiting the local shops.  Lunch was calling and the Seward’s Folly at the West Rib Pub was the answer.  Seward’s Folly is a massive burger and with a pound of fries, if eaten by one person in less than an hour you earn a T-Shirt.  We tackled the burger as a team of four adults and two kids, everyone was stuffed.

By the time we made it back to camp and ate dinner the kids were tired from a long day and it was too late to take them fishing.  While we were out Russ and I had picked up a couple flies and water bobbers to try and lure those trout in.  Needless to say they didn’t work as well as we had anticipated.

Rainbow Trout

The trout were regularly hitting our lines and water bobbers, but not the flies.   Around midnight, Russ finally tricked a trout into hitting the fly.  If we were going to take the kids fishing tomorrow we still needed to figure out a better way of catching these trout.

Time to take the kids fishing!

When we woke up to sunlight creeping through the curtains, I knew it would be a great day to take the kids fishing.  Plus, the first words out of their mouths were, “Are we going fishing?”  Today was the day, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and those darn trout were still jumping.

If the trout didn’t like lures or flies, the next step was trying bait.  I haven’t used bait to catch trout in lakes since I lived in California.  Trout being this picky in a small lake is extremely unusual in Alaska, 90% of the time using 4 lbs. test line and little spinners is all I’ve needed.  We rigged one rod with PowerBait and the other with Pautzke Balls O’Fire Salmon Eggs.

Wyatt holding a beautiful rainbow trout at South Rolly Lake.
Wyatt holding a beautiful rainbow trout at South Rolly Lake.

PowerBait did the trick, Wyatt reeled in a trout within minutes of putting a line in the water!  Once we figured out what was working we were catching a fish every few minutes.  We decided to switch from treble hooks to barbless single hooks, this makes it easier to release the fish.  The catching was so good that we had to release fish or the kids would be limited out in 30 minutes and all the fun would be over.

The kids proudly holding their catch!
The kids proudly holding their catch!

Everyone had a great time fishing off the dock.  We only kept a few fish, just enough to wrap in foil and cook over an open fire.  It was time to start working our way back to Seward.  These kids were excited to catch some big fish in the ocean!

Fishing for halibut and salmon!

Like I said before, these kids love fishing!  After their first experience fishing with us two years ago, they were chomping at the bit to get back on the water.  The plan was to fish on a Thursday, but Mother Nature changed that plan.  The forecast for Thursday was 30 knot winds and 12′ seas.  I don’t care if you are a kid or adult, that is not fishing weather.  Fortunately Wednesday’s forecast was beautiful, variable 10 knots and 4′ seas, in Seward it doesn’t get much better than that!

Fishing for silver salmon in Pony Cove.
Fishing for silver salmon in Pony Cove.

The week before we’d had a great fishing trip with our friend Jim who owns the Swelltime, so the plan was to duplicate that day.  The first stops were for silver salmon in the Cheval Narrows and Pony Cove.  The kids did great!  They had so much fun reeling in the spunky silver salmon.  Once everyone was happy with their silver salmon catch, we headed out for halibut.

We had already driven an hour to Pony Cove and we didn’t want to go much further for halibut fishing.  We also wanted to go to a highly productive fishing hole, hunting for big fish takes a while and tests everyone’s patience.  Last weeks halibut spot would be perfect, after a 15 minute boat ride and 10 minutes to change the gear over to halibut rigs we had lines in the water.

Wyatt and his Halibut.
Wyatt and his Halibut.

Like the week before, this halibut spot produced as expected.  Within minutes of setting a bait on the bottom there was a halibut hitting.  These were not big fish, but they were the perfect size for the kids to reel up.  The catching stayed steady and we had caught our limit in a little over an hour.

Bonking Fish!

When you catch a salmon or halibut you need to give it a bonk on the head with a small bat to calm it down.  This makes it easier to remove the hook and bleed it out.  Kids love bonking fish!  To some this may seem unethical, but in reality we are humanely dispatching the fish and preserving the quality of the meat for our future consumption.  I highly recommend checking out our video from the trip, we got some great footage of the kids!

Here are some tips for taking kids fishing on the ocean in Alaska!  Many of these  will apply to any fishing trip where you include the kids.

  1. Life Vests: Kids don’t float and it is the law!  If you child doesn’t know how to swim they should wear one anytime they are near the water.  Even if they do know how to swim they should wear one whenever they are near a river.
  2. Seasickness: This will ruin everyone’s day.  If your child gets seasick or if you do not know if they do it is best to take a preventative medicine.  Look for a non-drowsy brand because some will knock you out.  Even though these are over the counter, I need to cover my ass and tell you to consult a doctor before using any type of medicine.
  3. Keep Them Warm: Kids are especially vulnerable to the weather conditions.  This is why you need to make sure they stay warm, dry, and comfortable.  Dress them in layers with a waterproof outer shell and boots.
  4. Going to Bed Early: For many adults getting up at 5 am is tough and it’s the same for children.  Make sure you get the kids to bed early the night before so they are well rested for the big day.  If they want to take a nap on the boat ride out, let them sleep.
  5. Easy Snacks: Aside from a healthy lunch bring some easy to eat snacks.  It’s also nice to bring some saltine crackers and gatorade in case someone gets seasick.
  6. Entertainment: If you need to keep the kids occupied or hit their reset button compact toys such as coloring books, games, or video players will come in handy.
  7. Choose the Right Type of Fishing: Kids like to catch fish, choose a highly productive type of fishing to hold their attention.
  8. Know What You’re Doing: Do you homework and scout a fishery before you take the kids out, this greatly increases your odds of catching fish.  You could also go on a fishing charter, these greatly increase your odds of success and give you access to the ocean if you don’t have a boat.  Charters like Saltwater Safari in Seward are great for taking families out fishing.  They have large stable boats, excellent captains, and two deckhands to help everyone out.
  9. Keep it Engaging: Keep the kids engaged by having them help with various tasks on the boat; baiting the hooks, bonking fish, and washing down the deck.
  10. Have Fun: Finally, enjoy your time out on the water knowing you are making lasting memories for you and the kids.

If you enjoyed our article, please subscribe to our blog.  

You can also follow our adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


Fishing, Food, & Friends! Independence Weekend in Seward, Alaska + Video

In our hometown of Seward, Alaska Independence Day is a big event, over 30,000 people come down for the famous Mount Marathon Race and festivities.  Usually we try to leave town or hunker down at the house, so we don’t have to fight the crowds.

This weekend was going to be different.  We were going fishing with old friends on Friday the 3rd and new friends were coming into town for the weekend to share the experiences of Seward on Independence Day.

A beautiful sunrise on Resurrection Bay.
A beautiful sunrise on Resurrection Bay.

Catching fish with friends is nothing new, but we had a truly great day on the Swelltime.  Rebecca and I were fishing with Jim (who owns the Swelltime), his son, and our friend Joanna.  We headed out bright and early at 6am to catch silver salmon and halibut.  In Seward, the silvers start showing up the first week of July, so we were confident a few could be found on July 3rd.  Our first stop was Cheval Narrows, there were a few fish on the sonar, but none were biting so we moved over to Pony Cove.  Pony Cove and Cheval Narrows are on the outskirts of Resurrection Bay and some of the first stops for silvers as they return from spending a couple of years at sea.

One of the last drifts yielded a surprise for Rebecca, she finally caught her first king salmon!  Through the years of fishing with me on the rivers, Rebecca has hooked four kings and only landed one, the one that was landed had to be released because it was foul hooked (not hooked in the mouth and illegal to retain in freshwater).  Today was her lucky day, she caught a nice little king that was swimming with the silvers.

She has been waiting a long time to kiss a King!
She has been waiting a long time to kiss a King!

By the time the tide switched we had caught 11 silvers, so we decide to head out for halibut.  Today’s halibut spot consisted of Jim and I looking at the chart plotter and picking an area that looked fishy.  We didn’t feel like driving for hours so our chosen spot was only 15 minutes away.  Upon reaching our mark, we motored around while scanning the sonar for the structure and telltale signs of where to find halibut.

Within 10 minutes of fishing we brought up our first halibut.  There were a few really strong hits, but most of the fish were in the “chicken” class of fish.  We grade our halibut with names referencing their size; starting out as ping-pong paddles, to chickens, then come the turkeys, hogs, and barn doors.

Generally speaking we like to eat halibut under 5o pounds.  There are a few reasons; they are younger fish which tastes better, larger fish have a higher potential for mercury, and almost all halibut above 50 pounds are females which makes them the breeders.  I used to be a charter captain and I completely understand the thrill of bringing in a huge halibut.  Nowadays we get a bigger thrill in releasing the big ones, the following weekend Jim fished Montague Island and released a halibut over 200 lbs..

The chicken bite continued nice and steady, we kept some and released some as we approached our limit.  We tried holding out for larger fish, but they never showed.  With one fish to go our friend Joanna got a world-class backlash,  we tried to pick it out and ended up having to cut it apart.  Once it was resolved (30 minutes later), we all had a good laugh.

On our way back to the barn (the nickname for the harbor) we swung by Pony Cove to see if the salmon were hitting better in the afternoon, and they were not.  There were still the same five boats fishing there and nobody was catching.

We returned to the dock with a respectable load of fish.  Once all the salmon and halibut were filleted we each walked away with about 16 pounds of meat, not too shabby.

Earlier in the day some new friends came into Seward for the holiday weekend.  There are over a dozen full-time RV bloggers in Alaska for the summer and it’s been great getting to meet all of them.  The week before we shared a meal with Spencer and Rachel from Where in the World RV.  This weekend Jason and Kristin from Snowmads were taking up residence in our driveway while Chris and Cherie of Technomadia (who are traveling nomadically while their bus gets a full makeover) were staying in our guest room before catching a cruise ship south to Vancouver.

We saved some freshly caught salmon and halibut for a special dinner.  The Apollo Restaurant in downtown has a “Catch of the Day” special, you supply the fish and they supply the rest.  At $18 per person this is the best deal in town, especially since a burger and fries will cost your about the same.  They start you off with a salad and bread sticks, then come the panko crusted deep-fried salmon and halibut, the main course is grilled salmon and halibut served with a tarragon sauce and pasta or potatoes.  I dare you to leave room for dessert after this feast.  Another new friend met us for dinner as well, Chris Travels is in Seward for the summer working and making his YouTube videos.

The feast begins with appetizers!  Photo Courtesy of Technomadia
The feast begins with appetizers! Photo Courtesy of Technomadia

After dinner we had a surprise in store for our guests, watching fireworks from deck of the Swelltime!  In Seward, the fireworks show starts at midnight on the 3rd, and yes there is enough darkness at midnight to get the full effect.  We all had a great time and dare I say we might do this again.

The following morning as the mountain runners were preparing to race up Mount Marathon, we slept in and had a late breakfast of fresh eggs and caribou sausage.  It is great sharing our Alaskan wild game with friends.

Eating Alaskan wild game is one of the many healthy benefits to living up here.
Eating Alaskan wild game is one of the many healthy benefits to living up here.

After breakfast we headed into town to watch the start of the Men’s race.  Mount Marathon has an elevation of 3022 feet and the strongest competitors make it to the top and back down in less than 50 minutes.  In my opinion, just climbing the mountain is an accomplishment.

The start of the Men's Race.
The start of the Men’s Race.
Extreme mountain runner Kilian Jornet from Spain was the victor and set a new race record of 41:48.
Extreme mountain runner Kilian Jornet from Spain was the victor and set a new race record of 41:48.

The following morning we had one final treat in store for our out-of-town guests, the most amazing crepes this side of the Atlantic!

Our good friends Yvon and Janet own the Bed and Breakfast Le Barn Appetit.
Our good friends Yvon and Janet own the Bed and Breakfast Le Barn Appetit.

We were very thankful to share the weekend with our new friends.  If everything goes as planned we might meet up again this winter.  Stay tuned for more details on our upcoming adventure!

Follow our adventures by subscribing to our blog!




Camping and Fishing for King Salmon on the Little Susitna River + Video

Alaska king salmon are a prized catch among anglers and the Little Susitna River in the Mat-Su Valley is our destination to try to catch one.  We are taking a fishing charter that conveniently starts from the Little Susitna Public Use Area [also known as Burma Landing] where there is a boat launch with a nice little campground for our motorhome.

Unfortunately, king salmon numbers are not as strong as they once were, making the prize even greater.  I have always wanted to return to the Little Susitna River, back in 2007 I guided anglers there to catching their own king salmon.  Did you know that I have never reeled in a king salmon myself?  It may sound ironic, especially since I was an Alaska fishing guide for years.  Surprisingly, there are many captains and guides that never get to go fishing on their own.

One of my fishing clients and his king salmon.
One of my fishing clients and his king salmon.

[Read more…]