Hard clams, quahogs, cherrystones, littlenecks, chowders... call them what you will, these clams are delicious and not difficult to harvest. Here's a quick rundown of quahog pursuit.
Quahogs prefer a sandy bottom. Look for them in estuaries and inlets - they typically thrive where the water is not too salty, which explains why they don't usually populate ocean-facing beaches. Keep an eye out for other clammers, they're always a good tip-off of the presence of clams! Quahogs live just a few inches down in the sand - not nearly so deep as steamer clams, which can be 10 inches into the mud.
Going for quahogs is straightforward. Andy Nebreski, of On The Water magazine, suggests you outfit yourself with a quahog rake. Drag it, tines down, through the sand with all your senses tuned for that distinctive "chink" of a struck quahog shell.
Feeling brave? You can go low-tech. Try ooching your bare toes through the sand. This can be very enjoyable while holding a cold beverage and chatting with a friend. Every now and then... voila! A quahog for your basket!
Recreational shellfishing requires a permit. Shellfish permits are almost always locally issued. Check with your town hall. With your permit you will get information about minimum sizes. It's very useful to have a quahog gauge - pick one up at your nearby tackle shop.
Prepare for shucking
So you have yourself a basketful of hard clams... congratulations! Take them home and scrub them well under cold water. Quahogs (unlike steamers) are not usually sandy inside - if you're crunching on grit, it most likely came from the outside of the shell. Avoid that unpleasantness - go over them well with a scrubby sponge.
And try this shucking tip, courtesy of Andy Nebreski: before shucking, pop your quahogs in the freezer for 10 or 15 minutes. The cold will shock them, making them easier to pop open. Use a clam knife - it is the right tool, and your hands and other cutlery will thank you.
Quahogs will keep a long while (a week or more) in the refrigerator. Store them on damp paper towels. You'll know if they die - they'll open up. Don't eat any open clams...
Audio of The Fishing News conversation with Steve Junker and Andy Nebreski discussing quahogs is posted above.