Oregon and Washington have soft shell steamer clams in most estuaries. They are considered a non native species and were introduced from the east coast via the oyster industry. In Oregon you can dig an additional 30 soft shell clams, in addition to the bag limmit of the native clams. I went clamming on the Umpqua estuary a couple of years ago and we all got our limmits of soft shells. I ended up frying some of them New England style (dredged in corn and wheat flour after a soak in evaporated milk/water and egg bath). I did this because as you know you can't find them this way on the West coast. I don't think they harvest the soft shells commercially as they are considered inferior to the natives. When I was leaving to go home I stopped for lunch at a seafood place at the marina and I asked why they did not serve wholebelly clams. They had no idea what I was talking about. This is fine with me because I love soft shells steamed, fried and in chowders. More for the people who like to play in the mud.
While in college in Salem,MA a generation back I worked for HoJo's for a couple of years. I ate a lot of the clam strips that we served at that time. They are a totally different taste-consistency-and eating experience from the Whole Belly Clams found at some of the places like Woodmans in Essex and the Clam Box in Ipswich and McIntyres in Rowley. Both have their fine points and I won't bad-mouth either, but it really isn't fair to compare them. "Apples to Oranges" is more what they are.
I love the Clams in the Rough- a plate load of Whole-Bellies and Onion Rings.
We have enjoyed some great Clam Chowder and Steamers in Oregon at several places....Mo's in Newport for one. I am really suprised that the New England-style of bread/batter and quick deep fry the whole clam either doesn't work, or hasn't caught on on the Western Coast. They certainly have the clams that could be used????? Anyone know "Why", or "Why Not"??