Coastal Casts: moon snails
Howdy everyone! Summer is still in full swing and we are seeing good catches of rockfish, lingcod, several nice near-shore halibut and a few salmon. The salmon being caught are few and far between overall but it’s still nice seeing some caught in the bay, including a couple off of Point Adams here in Charleston.
Crabbing is picking up as well, with some folks doing great out there. It’s definitely one of those things where you have to be holding your tongue just the right way.
I took my kayak in the bay the other day and had planned on spending no more than two hours at the top of the tide, getting back to the shop no later than 1 p.m. I didn’t look at the time at all and just went with what felt like a couple hours — six hours later I was still out there having a blast. It was a slow bite and I only caught about twenty rockfish, but that was an extremely slow day — which tells you how well our bay usually fishes.
We’ve also had a lot of great clam tides lately and have been putting on a lot of classes, both scheduled and unscheduled.
One of our customers brought in something from the clam-flats this past week that I have been looking for over the past several years. I knew they existed, but I could never ever find one. I’m talking about the moon snail. Why have I been looking for one? For no particular reason other than they are a giant predatory carnivorous crawling mollusk, which of course makes them super cool on some weird level.
These large snails can grow to about five inches in diameter and will live in the shallow intertidal zones in the summer, before moving to deeper waters in the winter. Regardless of where they reside, these small, fist-sized snails hunt and consume their favorite prey every chance they get. If you are a small clam in moon snail waters these things are your worst nightmare.
A moon snail will envelop their prey with their large fleshy “foot” and drag them away kicking and screaming the whole way (this may not exactly be one hundred percent accurate, but certainly they WANT to kick and scream). This foot, by the way, is the part under a snail that you see as they slowly crawl along with their day.
Once the clam has been pulled away and the snail has some peace and quiet to enjoy its meal, the real work starts. The moon snail uses its rasp-like teeth (radula) to bore a hole in the side of the clam. Once it has broken through the shell, it secretes digestive enzymes and acid into its prey. This death-by-digestion allows the moon snail to stay attached and feast on its victim for a couple days. I have done this same thing with a rotisserie chicken from Costco.
Moon snails form mating pairs and will lay their cluster of eggs in the sand sometime in the summer months. It really doesn’t look like a cluster at all, but I didn’t know how else to describe it. I re-read what I wrote and thought, “Wow, that was taking the easy way out,” so guilt is now causing me to describe a moon snail eggs in greater detail.
I don’t have a moon snail egg picture and don’t want to steal one, so you should also Google “moon snail eggs” when you are done here because they are so bizarre you need to see these things. The best way I can describe them is to ask you to look at the top of a plastic pop bottle, now cut off the top part of the neck and just below where the bottle stops curving and straightens out. That piece you just cut out looks pretty much like a moon snail egg casing, or collar, made of sand and snail mucus. The underside of this protective collar is where the small jelly-like eggs are held. Yes, we just talked about snail mucus and I apologize for the weirdness. Sort of.
Whether you are rockfishing in the bay or scooping up moon snails on the clam flats, I hope to see you out there!