Don't dig that clam: Toxic shellfish warning issued in Skagit Co.

Don't dig that clam: Toxic shellfish warning issued in Skagit Co. »Play Video
NEAR CONWAY, Wash. -- Some of the best clam digging tides of the year are this weekend. But if you are heading to Skagit County or north, leave the clam shovel at home; what you dig up may be deadly.

The problem with a red tide is that it is not red, and whether the tide is in or out makes no difference.

What sounds an alarm is when testing shows a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning. New tests show the clams, the oysters, the mussels are now dangerous in Skagit County.

When Jeanne King went to the beach Friday morning, she saw bad news -- people.

"The people who were down here this morning were digging clams, and they were going to take them home and eat them," said King of the Skagit County Health Department.

That would not have been wise. The skull warning on signs around the beach, as well as the accompanying warning written in six languages indicate the results could be deadly.

Such signs are posted when there's a reading of 80 in a shellfish sample. But levels in Samish Bay are currently six times that high.

That's really bad news for oyster growers like Paul Blau. July is normally his busy season.

"It knocks down a critical time of year in our operation," he said. This is the biggest month of the year."

As a result, Blau will be shut down for at least 10 days, maybe a month, possibly longer.

And these clams and oysters across Samish Bay at Taylor shellfish harvested Thursday are under quarantine until they are tested. Many hope the toxin levels are starting to drop, but don't bet on it:

"The levels in the bay are really high right now, and it came up very quickly -- pretty good indication it will last for a while," said Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish.

All beaches in Skagit County are now closed to clam digging. It is still a great place for a walk.

Yes, I know, the low tides this weekend are phenomenal. But a warning: you cannot cook this toxin away. So resist temptation, and just go for a walk on the beach.