Geoducks are interesting-looking clams that many refined palates in the world are extremely fond of.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest my wife was very familiar with Geoducks (and even sings a song about them) but they were a bit of a shock to me the first time I saw them.
So, if you’re among the initiated, let’s lay a bit of a foundation before leaping right into the more nitty-gritty details of finding and preparing the world’s largest clam.
So, what is a geoduck?
Geoducks are giant burrowing clams that can have siphons as large as baseball bats. Despite their spelling, they are called “Gooey Ducks” and are primarily harvested for consumption as food. There is a wide range of geoduck dishes, including sashimi, hot pot, and raw geoduck meat.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about geoducks, including where you can spot them, how to hunt one, and what you can do with a geoduck once you catch it. From storage best practices to cooking methods, you will learn everything you want to know about geoducks in this comprehensive guide. So bookmark this post, and let’s get started.
Geoducks: A Brief Overview
Geoducks are burrowing clams that are famous for their size and shape. They are burrowed deep in underwater mud and have a large siphon exposed past the mud surface.
The Geoduck diet primarily functions as a water filtration system, making it one of the largest bottom feeders. Not to mention, it’s the world’s most gigantic burrowing clam.
The word geoduck is not pronounced as “geo duck.” Instead, it is pronounced as “gooey duck,” which comes from the native American wordage for digging deep. It might also be a double entendre that refers to the male genitalia, given the clam’s phallic shape.
Now you know how to pronounce “geoduck” without a Pacific Northwesterner correcting you!
Farming and Trading Geoducks: The Facts
Geoduck farming is a thriving industry in some Pacific Northwest towns. These clams can be planted under predictable aquaculture conditions and can be harvested once their siphons show sufficient growth.
Their demand in the market drives geoduck farming. These can be sold locally at common fish markets and stalls in fishing towns in the PNW. But mostly, the geoduck farmers wholesale their product directly to national or international buyers.
In PNW, the geoducks go for $20 per pound, while the same clams can go for $30 per pound elsewhere in the US. In high-demand markets outside of the US, especially in land-locked countries, geoducks can fetch $50 per pound.
And if you’re wondering whether the geoducks market is lucrative for newcomers, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of opportunities. With the largest farms selling the bulk of their geoduck harvest to China, small harvesters, hunters, and farmers can sell geoducks locally.
Where to Find Geoducks
Geoducks, like most clams, can be found in the intertidal and subtidal zones along the coast, typically in sandy or muddy substrates.
Their natural range extends from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands down to Baja California in Mexico. However, they are most commonly found in the coastal waters of British Columbia, Canada, and the US states of Washington and Oregon. In these regions, geoducks thrive in the cool, nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean.
While there are some reports of Geoducks being farmed/harvested in Russia, the official range of Geoducks is typically limited to the North American continent.
Geoducks are also farmed through aquaculture operations in some parts of their range, particularly in Washington State and British Columbia, which are major producers of farmed geoducks for the global market.
Best Places To Find Geoducks In The PNW
Pacific Northwest locations where you can pull geoducks out without a boat include:
Once you catch a geoduck, you can prepare and cook it or sell it to a willing buyer. Selling geoducks requires a minimum of one pound volume for local small-scale sales. To sell to a restaurant in China, you need over one hundred pounds of geoducks.
To sell to a wholesaler, you need over one thousand pounds. And while some of these numbers might be staggering to you, many geoduck hunters do exactly this.
Geoducks Conservation Rate & Daily Limit
Because of geoducks’ great demand and unit movement, you might wonder if it is endangered.
Conservation scientists don’t track Geoducks, meaning there’s no legislation against harvesting them on public property. Given that they are farmed in the thousands, they remain among the least endangered clam species.
How to Catch Geoducks
To catch geoducks, you need to spot them! If you’re familiar with exploring tidepools you’re probably familiar with watching for bubbles or water spouts. That will come in handy here!
Catching them is possible in one of two ways.
The first is to actually go to a spot where Geoducks are being farmed and ask for the privilege of digging one out yourself. Small-time geoduck farmers might agree to this.
The other way is more common, though. For that, you need to spot the geoduck.
This is done with context and symptoms. When a geoduck is burrowed into the underwater mud, it preys on plankton through its long siphon.
As a filter creature, it squirts out water on the other end. The water has to break past the mud where the clam is buried. As a result, there are dimples in the sand wherever a geoduck is active.
But context matters.
You cannot look for dimples in freshwater or roadside puddles. Knowing where to look for geoducks is crucial to finding one. Places where you can discover geoducks are covered above.
Once you know where the geoduck is, you start digging. You can use a geoduck trap, which is a large steel tube that can be used to dig deep quicker. The steel creates a parameter around which one can dig and push deeper into the mud. Experienced clam hunters can explore for geoducks without a trap.
Once you’ve dug deep enough to feel its siphon, you simply need to go a little further and find the shell. If you pull it, the entire geoduck will dislodge. Sometimes, you will find alternate clams with similar cooking applications but lower shipping appeal.
During the hunting process, you can wear a rubber glove to protect your hand from the shell edges of sharper clams. If the siphon is long, you should grab it as close to the shell as possible. And if you can reach the shell, grab the shell only.
Please note that pulling the siphon itself can break it off! Trying to grab the siphon can result in the geoduck retracting it.
In both cases, catching the clam can get only slightly harder. But since the geoduck shell cannot move, you can catch the geoduck if you spot it and are willing to dig deep enough.
Alternative clams don’t dig as deep and can be easier to catch. But you can make more money specializing in geoduck hunting if not geoduck farming. And that’s due to the geoduck demand covered earlier.
Eating Geoduck Meat: Preparation and Health Benefits
Geoducks are an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. They are also rich in minerals and vitamins. Moreover, their taste is appreciated in China, America (mainly the Pacific Northwest), and multiple places known for their fine dining cultures.
The geoduck meat lends itself to easy cooking-free food preparation, including sashimi, and can even be used in mass-appeal methods like fritters. Geoducks are healthy but don’t have scientifically proven medical properties. They are rumored to promote sexual health, but the actual value of these claims is questionable.
If you’re not into cooking but want to try a geoduck, there are several fine restaurants in Seattle that serve local cuisine and feature geoduck on the menu at times.
There are three main ways to cook Geoducks, among which two involve cooking. Both start by boiling the geoduck whole alongside the shell. After that, dip the geoduck in ice water to stop it from cooking. Remove the shell with a sharp knife, then remove the inedible layer that sits over the siphon.
With the edible parts, you can do one of two things:
You can fry the geoduck chunks after breading them. Or you can simply dunk the geoducks in a chowder mix after boiling the mixture and the meat separately (this produces geoduck chowder).
The quickest way to cook geoduck is to sautee it in butter after cleaning.
Meat Preparation and Cleaning
A dead or living geoduck needs to be cleaned before it is cooked. To clean, boil it first, then put it on ice to preserve the hardness of its top layer.
When the siphon is sufficiently hard, remove the upper layer. The interior of the siphon is meat that’s ready to be eaten.
Boiling / Cooking
You boil a geoduck for 20 seconds in the cleaning process. The rest of the cooking depends on the specific recipe.
A hot pot application requires 30 seconds of boiling. Fritters take 1-minute on high heat, while chowder mix takes a few minutes on low heat.
You can fry geoduck to make fritters, but it has to be breaded. Without spices or breading, the meat turns out bland and the meat becomes too rubbery.
While different recipes exist for cooking geoducks, they are not as commonly used as an outsider would think. Most often, Geoducks are simply eaten raw after their inedible skin is removed. But to be eaten raw, they need to be alive. The storage methods are covered later in this post.
How do Geoducks Taste?
Geoducks are crispy yet “gooey”. They have a unique texture that many people love. In my opinion, it is one of the things that makes a geoduck a geoduck.
They taste semi-sweet and are loved for their texture. However, some cultures cook geoduck meat which changes the texture of the clam.
Storing and Farming Geoducks
Did you know that you can keep a geoduck alive by wrapping it in a wet cloth and placing it in the refrigerator?
Gooey duck pet!
The geoduck can stay alive for a few days but will eventually die. If you plan to eat it raw, it has to be alive. Geoducks can live a few days in the fridge but live for much longer in their natural habitat. In saltwater, geoducks can live for close to 170 years! But after 15 years, they no longer grow in siphon size.
If you’re harvesting geoducks for meat, you should let them grow for 1.5 to 2 years. This is the ideal frequency to let the geoducks reach a fair trade between size and unit. While high-end restaurants order geoducks by pounds, they prefer to have them by an ideal size of one clam per dish.
Geoduck meat lasts 4 days in the fridge. A living geoduck can be kept alive for 3 days in the fridge if covered with a wet cloth. The fresher the geoducks are, the better they are to eat. If you go geoduck harvesting, you better have plans to eat them or know who will.
Which (if any) of Your Friends Will Try Geoduck?
If you plan to persuade your friends to eat geoducks, you might wonder which ones to approach.
It is generally the sushi-eating crowd who eat who will love geoducks. It’s challenging to convince conservative eaters to try geoducks…but well worth the try!
Don’t bother explaining the lack of a geoduck’s central nervous system to vegetarians. They are philosophically opposed to consuming meat. And you cannot use geoducks to create vegetarian patties or fritters. Geoducks are not considered vegan or vegetarian. They are consumed by pescetarians, though.
Geoducks Trivia: Things You Need To Know
If you’re getting involved in geoduck catching as a commercial or personal interest practice, you might need to know a few things.
The chief among these is that geoducks are eaten alive. Raw/dead geoduck is dangerous to eat, and that’s why it is stored in a way that keeps it alive.
In China, Geoduck is boiled alive in a hot pot, while chunks of its meat are cut in southern recipes in America.
Do Geoducks Feel Pain?
Since geoducks don’t have a brain or a central nervous system, the likelihood of them feeling pain is virtually zero.
So as heartless as it might sound to the outsider, you must know that your participation in geoduck hunting, farming, or consumption is not causing pain.
Are Geoducks Clams?
A geoduck is a clam, but they are different from other clams because of its phallic appearance (and the connotations of said appearance).
Geoduck farms lean into the myth of these clams promoting sexual health. Whether geoducks have an aphrodisiac effect remains to be proven by science.
What is the Liquid that Comes out Of a Geoduck?
You will notice the clam squirt water out the other end if you pull out a geoduck too quickly. That is relatively filtered water it excretes after consuming plankton from saltwater.
Do Geoducks Have Brains?
Geoducks retract their siphons when you touch them, but that’s not a conscious choice – it is a reflex.
Geoducks don’t have a brain and hence don’t think or feel.
Can Geoducks Regrow?
Even though geoducks don’t think or feel, we don’t recommend you pull its siphon for fun.
A geoduck’s siphon can break off, which kills the clam, and they don’t regrow broken siphons.
In many places, if you are in possession of a geoduck’s siphon and not the rest of the animal you can be fined or arrested as you’ve basically brutalized the animal and left it to starve.
Does Catching Geoducks Damage the Environment?
Catching wild geoducks in large quantities can worsen water conditions. However, the numbers that geoducks are typically harvested in do not seem to have any negative effect on the environment.
Whether it’s the difficulty in catching them or their odd appearance we seem to be, for now, harvesting them sustainably.
How Deep do Geoducks Dig?
Geoducks dig 3 to 4 feet deep on average, but in some cases, you can dig up to 7 feet beneath the substrate. But the latter instances are much rarer than the 2-feet dig.
Do Geoducks Make Pearls?
Despite their classification as a mollusk, Geoducks are not able to make pearls as oysters and freshwater mussels do. While it would be technically possible, the reason that Geoducks do not create pearls is that there is simply not enough room in their shell to produce and house them.
Unlike other mollusks, geoducks cannot retreat entirely into their shell when full-grown which leaves no room for sand particles or other foreign bodies to be coated and turn into what we know as pearls.
Why Do Geoducks Squirt Water?
Geoducks are, by design, filter feeders. They take seawater in, filter out plankton and vitamins, and squirt the filtered water out through their siphon. When disturbed, Geoducks often expel the water they have out through their siphon in what experts consider to be a defense mechanism.
Whether you live in the Pacific Northwest or are thinking of traveling here you should make digging for geoducks a part of your trip.
Just be sure you’ll be here at the right time of year to take advantage of the amazing beaches and geoduck season!