Fresno Woman Fined $88K After Kids Collect Clams From Pismo Beach

PISMO BEACH, Calif. (KMJ/KFSN) — At the end of last year, Charlotte Russ and her family took a trip to Pismo.

“My kids they thought they were collecting seashells, but they were actually collecting clams, 72 to be exact,” said Fresno resident Charlotte Russ.

Her children collected rows of clams, but they learned an expensive lesson: clamming has regulations.

“Right before we went, that’s when I opened it and that’s when I saw the amount,” said Russ.

She got a ticket on the spot and later received a notice she would have to pay just over $88,000.

“It made me really sad and depressed, and it kind of ruined our trip,” said Russ.

Lt. Matthew Gil with the Department of Fish and Wildlife says the rules are in place to protect the species of the shellfish.

“The reason we got it we have these regulations is because we have to let them get to 4 and a half inches so they can spawn so they can have they can have offspring every year, and they have juvenile clams,” said Lt. Gil.

Lt. Gil adding it’s important to educate yourself and your children before going ashore.

“If you have a dead sand dollar, a dead animal, or something like that, or you have a broken seashell, that’s fine,” said Lt. Gil. “Pismo clams — what you’re gonna see is both shells will be intact together,” said Lt. Gil.

If you can’t take them a part very easily, its a clam.

A difference Russ’s kids are now aware of.

“They know now at the beach don’t touch anything, but they know now what a clam is, compared to what a seashell is now, I’ve had to explain that to them,” said Russ.

Thankfully, after explaining the clam confusion to a San Luis Obispo County judge, she got her fine reduced to $500.

Now, she can laugh about it.

“So I got this after I ‘won’ my case, in Pismo,” said Russ.

This tattoo of a shellfish is to remind her of the situation and just how good her children are at being clam fishers.

But all jokes and clam chuckles aside, she wants others to be aware — so they don’t have the same shellfish struggles as her.

“It was definitely one expensive trip to Pismo, unforgettable,” said Russ.

Last year, there were 58 citations issued for this problem in San Luis Obispo.

Russ says there are signs posted, but she says she wishes there were more because it is just not something her family, who were very eager to have fun, paid attention to.