Butter Clams

Butter Clam, Vancouver Island, BC
Butter Clam, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

Butter clams occur from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to Northern California, and they are quite common throughout the Pacific Northwest wherever suitable conditions occur. They live in a wide variety of beach types, from pure sand to pure gravel, but the typical substrate is a porous mixture of sand, broken shells, and small gravel. They occur mainly in the lower third of the tidal zone but are also found to a depth of 10 meters below the zero tidal level.

The butter clam was initially the targeted species of the intertidal clam fishery in British Columbia. It is a relatively large clam, attaining a length of up to 12 cm. The shells are heavy and solid, square to oval in shape. The external surface has prominent concentric striations and deep winter checks. Shells are yellow in color in juveniles, changing to grayish-white with age, but the color is often affected by the type of substrate in which it lives. The internal surface is white and smooth, but not glossy.

Sexes of butter clams are separate and spawning takes place in late spring.

Successful breeding is not a regular occurrence on British Colombian beaches. All age classes are not equally represented in the various populations and successful reproductive years are infrequent. There is evidence that some populations may fail to spawn in some years, and these irregular spawning s result in the fluctuations of adult populations.

I have always liked using these clams in chowders and in clam fritters, they are a very meaty clam and there is nothing like chewing on a big piece of clam meat while enjoying a bowl of chowder. Deep-fried clam fritters are big and meaty also, again, chewing on these is very enjoyable.

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