According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, clams are returning to Pismo Beach but they're still too small to legally harvest. That means those who are taking the clams can be cited.
Fish and Wildlife Lt. Matthew Gil says they have yet to find a 4.5-inch legal-size clam in San Luis Obispo County since the 1990s.
"Everything that people are taking right now is undersized and unlawful to take currently. Last weekend alone, 1,799 clams were seized within two days between the fire department and State Parks," Gil said.
Nearly 700 clams were seized at one campground near Pismo Beach over the past weekend.
Gil says the clams were being used for consumption.
"One of our officers was at the campsite where they had started consuming the clams over the weekend. We were fortunate a Good Samaritan contacted us and contacted CalTIP and we were able to respond and catch those clam people," Gil said.
A total of 96 citations for 9,000 clams have been given out this year with eight citations taking place just this past weekend.
Last year, officials seized more than 25,000 clams, a record high, and gave out 226 citations.
"They're gorgeous but when they're still alive, you want to keep them in their place, especially when they are babies. You want to at least let them get to where they are supposed to be," said beachgoer Odette Matthews.
The goal for wildlife officials now is to educate those who may not know the rules and stop those who do.
"A lot of kids love going to the beach and play with the clams. We get that, we try to do as much outreach as we can and tell them, 'hey, we gotta bury these clams,'" Gil said.
He adds that if you see a clam wash up on the beach, the best thing to do is to rebury them to help avoid seagulls getting to them. Gil also says they are working on putting more signage around the beach.
In order to avoid a citation, you must have a fishing license to take legally-sized clams and the limit is just 10 clams.
If you see an incident regarding illegal clam poaching, you can call the CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to tip411 by texting “CALTIP” followed by a space and the message.